Blog: Dave Leggett'Interesting times' for Volvo Car

Dave Leggett | 3 September 2008

So, Fredrik Arp has left Volvo Car Corporation. As far as I can see, he is 55-years of age and that's a bit young for retirement I would think. I interviewed him a few years ago and found him to be a very decent fellow and, well, very Swedish. What do I mean by that? It's a slightly flippant thing to say but he was a bit like Sven-Goran Eriksson, the football coach.

Like his footballing compatriot, Arp also spoke his English very clearly and in a measured way. He was polite and courteous, but still businesslike - delivering crisp and full answers to all of my questions. I was in and out in the allotted time - it was efficient, but in a humane way. I had the feeling that he was someone who cared passionately about Swedish things and Volvo, but probably wouldn't scream and shout about it. Understated. Rather like Volvo cars.

What does his replacement by Stephen Odell mean?

Well, Odell is a Ford creature first and foremost. He's new to Volvo and he's not Swedish. That will unsettle quite a few in Gothenburg. If there are uncertain times coming - maybe a new owner even - a safe pair of Swedish hands at the helm would be what many would have preferred.

Is Ford losing patience with Volvo now? Maybe. The unit is losing money and Jerry York has already said that Ford would be better off without it on the basis that it is a distraction Ford can do without. Mulally may want to signal that Volvo needs a shake-up urgently to get it back in the black. And things have got worse financially for Ford over the past year with the way the US market is shaping up - and that won't get better quick.  

And Mulally - who has fashioned the whole 'let's coalesce around the blue oval' strategy - may be instinctively a little unsympathetic to keeping Volvo in any case.

Would Volvo be difficult to entangle were it to be sold? Maybe and maybe there are those in Dearborn who would rather not go through that particular pain. And it would mean losing another upscale brand with good potential and value. Nevertheless, there may be some concluding that a least-worst option might be to get it off the books.if it is losing money and also that, if it is to have any chance of becoming profitable within a reasonable time period, radical things have to start happening quickly - yes, restructuring.

And if it does eventually come to a sale (it's not exactly a sellers' market but Renault might still be interested), Ford has that Jag-LR offloading experience to take it through the technology entanglement/supply issues.

Whatever is going on, it does appear that maintaining the status quo at Volvo was one option that finally found the waste paper basket.

Best wishes to Mr Arp, anyway.  

US: Volvo's global chief steps down


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