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Volvo plan could spell V8 Supercar pull-out

Finish line: Volvo’s global marketing boss said motorsport no longer fits with the brand, but Valvoline GRM team owner Garry Rogers said he had not been informed of a pull-out and would keep on racing.

New strategy will see Volvo miss motor shows and possibly leave V8 Supercars

20 Dec 2014

VOLVO has announced it will embark on a radical new marketing strategy that means it will miss most motor shows and embrace online sales, with a departure from V8 Supercars also a possibility.

Under the new plan called ‘Volvo Way To Market’, the Swedish car-maker will transform the way it advertises its products, runs its dealerships and interacts with consumers digitally.

The shake up means sponsorship will be wound back, which could put an end to Volvo’s involvement in the local V8 Supercar Championship. This means yet another manufacturer will pull out of V8 Supercars, following confirmation of Ford’s exit at the end of next year, a move the local factory team’s boss said he has heard nothing about yet.

Volvo Cars senior vice president marketing, sales and customer service Alain Visser said breaking with traditional auto industry marketing methods will “sell cars in ways never before seen”.

“The car industry is one of the most conservative, least evolutionary marketing clusters in global business,” he said.

“For decades, car marketing has been following a certain pattern which is followed by the entire car industry. Now, Volvo Cars chooses to defy that logic and implement a strategy that is geared towards its own needs.

“We don’t want to throw all existing marketing concepts overboard. Many of them exist for a good reason. We also don't want to have the arrogance to say that we are better than all the rest. But we do have the self-confidence to say that we are different. So our way to market needs to be different as well.”

A significant part in the company’s strategy is attending just three auto show annually with Geneva, Detroit and Shanghai/Beijing the chosen few.

Mr Visser said there are better ways to present products to consumers and press than motor shows.

“Motor shows are a rather traditional affair in which brands crowd out each other at set times in the battle for press exposure.”

Instead, Volvo will hold an annual event, similar to the next-generation XC90’s launch in Stockholm in August this year, where the car-maker will showcase new technology and product.

Sponsorship will also be wound back with the brand saying it will focus its commitment and investment on the Volvo Ocean Race which it believes is a good representation of the brand describing it as “the most competitive, fair and pure blend of people with nature”.

Motorsport, however, does not fit Volvo’s image any more Mr Visser told Swedish financial website Dagens Industri this week. He confirmed in the interview that Volvo would pull out of the Swedish Touring Car Championship (STCC).

“Motorsport does not conform with our brand, where we stand for smaller engines and safety,” he told the publication.

“We are therefore pulling out of STCC for example as soon as the contracts permits.”

Volvo’s official factory outfit Polestar Racing runs entries in the STCC and also through the Valvoline Racing GRM team in Australia’s V8 Supercars.

Speaking exclusively with GoAuto, Valvoline Racing GRM team owner Garry Rogers was asked if Volvo had contacted him about ending its motorsport involvement.

“No, not at all,” he said.

“I’ve read all the activity that you see there but as far as GRM is concerned we’re in a contracted situation to build and race cars and win with them, and that’s exactly what we’re doing and will continue to do so.

“We’ve got an ongoing contract with them for that bit of time and other matters.” As for what GRM would do if Volvo decided to leave V8 Supercars after the current contract ends in 2016 Mr Rogers said he was concentrating on the present.

“I don’t deal in ifs or maybes. I deal in facts and currently the facts are we’re paid to do a job which we’re doing and so long as we’re continue to be paid to do the job we’ll keep doing it and hopefully we’ll keep winning.” Along with winding back sponsorship Volvo admits its advertising spend will be less than its larger competitors.

Volvo’s digital presence, however, will be ramped up significantly with the company saying it must adapt to consumers adoption of online shopping and move its retail focus away from dealerships and begin selling cars on the internet.

Volvo cites the online-only sale of its 1927 Special Edition XC90s in September as the first successful step into digital commerce.

Dealerships will still form a major part of Volvo’s operations, with new showrooms getting a uniform look, while existing ones will receive a makeover that will “display the Scandinavian roots of the Volvo brand”.

Volvo said the final part of its strategy is to change its approach to customer service. When a customer buys their car they will be introduced to a “Personal Service Technician” who will be their point of contact throughout the entire ownership.

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