INTERVIEW: Volvo Cars South Africa MD Greg Maruszewski charged up for 2021
JOHANNESBURG - I recently had a cup of coffee with Volvo Cars South Africa managing director, Greg Maruszewski, about the Volvo car line-up in the country, why we don’t get the S60 anymore, what’s happening with the electric XC40 and when we can expect the Polestar brand to arrive...
Becoming a better business
When Maruszewski took the helm of Volvo Cars in SA about half a decade ago, the ship had begun to take on water but today it's smooth-sailing. Don’t get me wrong, Volvo was doing ok, selling just enough V40s and XC60s, but the volume that was needed to make the business sustainable just wasn’t there.
The key challenge was that Volvo had inherited many of its challenges from past ownership issues and the local business was fragmented, with problematic dealerships, distribution and logistics challenges and human resources challenges.
“When I took over, I knew things needed to change. We were doing alright, but as I had experienced in the past working in other regions around the world, we could be doing better. We began to change the way we do business, engaging with our dealers more, really getting to understand the problems they were having so that we at head office could support them more effectively,” Maruszewski said.
“I didn’t do anything magical, I just listened to my management teams’ needs and together we developed strategies and methods to improve the business piece by piece. Everything from the accounting department to the marketing department at head office, right down to the way the calls and leads are handled at the dealership level have been overhauled and continue to be refined and tweaked as the market changes because we are now an active, thinking company that understands who our customers are and why they buy our vehicles.
“We aren’t chasing large volumes of new car sales each month as we understand that our vehicles hit just the right spot for customers,” Maruszewski expounds.
The vehicles people want
Maruszewski adds that Volvo’s evolving model line-up over the past five years has helped with the sales and business improvement and the popularity of the Volvo brand in South Africa and that models such as the electric XC40 (and maybe the Polestar 2) will help to shift the Swedish carmaker into a higher gear.
“Volvo has this unique following in South Africa and we know that there are still some customers out there who really want us to build a new C30 hatchback or to replace the V40 with something similar or to bring back the S60 sedan, but the reality is that our market has changed. People want SUVs and crossover vehicles and to this end, we are working toward bringing more SUVs and crossover-type vehicles to South Africa.
“We would love to offer a hot hatch or a sporty sedan, but those markets are getting smaller and smaller and we’re really focusing on the growth segments, to build the cars people really want with the safety tech and the driving assistance tech that will be relevant in the future as our vehicles and the roads evolve around us.
“Look at the XC90 for instance that’s already been on sale for a number of years and has won so many awards, including the COTY award in South Africa. It’s now available as a high-performance hybrid model. That large vehicle has a 2.0-litre engine with V8 performance, but thanks to the packaging, the technology, the research and development and the forward-thinking that we’ve applied, its a relevant and sought-after vehicle, despite the fact that it’s the most expensive vehicle we sell in South Africa.
“In 2021, we’re going to focus on refining our model line-up on both ends, to ensure there are still plenty of entry-level offerings into the brand while focusing on hybrid and electric technology. The all-electric XC40, for example, will be our first electric vehicle and we’re optimistic that we can launch in 2021, it just depends on the Covid-19 situation around the world and how that impacts production and logistics,” he says.
What about Polestar?
Last year, amidst the drama and panic of lockdowns around the world, Polestar launched the Polestar 2 in Europe. It’s a compact all-electric sports car that could be ideal for South Africans who want a different way of covering ground quickly. Maruszewski says that while the Polestar brand is indeed ideal for South Africa, the focus will be on the XC40 all-electric SUV.
“Polestar is a separate business unit and their plans to roll out around the world will differ from ours. We’re not saying that we won’t launch these cars here, but we are saying that we’d like to look how our XC40 electric car is received this year and then we can plan from there.
“The all-electric XC40 is unique in that it still looks like our normal XC40 but it’s really running the latest in battery and motor technology. I’m not a petrolhead, I’ll admit, but I can tell you that from my experience with hybrid Volvos and other electric cars, there’s a particular satisfaction you get from the acceleration and smoothness that people won’t understand unless they experience it. I really think we are going to have a big year for electric vehicles as long as we can get the stock.
“So for now, our focus is on the current models, refining them in terms of specification and engine choices throughout the year, but the big car for us in 2021 is the XC40 electric. We would like to encourage customers to visit our dealerships to experience the vehicles we have on offer today and to talk to us about their motoring needs because we offer so many solutions. You can also get in touch with us now to register your interest in the electric XC40 so that we can contact you as soon as they land," he concludes.
To find out more about Volvo Cars in South Africa or to book a test drive of the latest model, visit www.volvocars.com/za