Former McDonalds exec named Volvo Cars IT chief

By Graeme Roberts | 2 December 2016

Geely's Volvo Cars has named former McDonalds Corporation chief digital officer Atif Rafiq as senior vice president IT and chief digital officer.

Rafiq, 43, will, the automaker said, "oversee the company's continued digital transformation, helping to evolve how consumers interact with Volvo cars across the buying, driving, entertainment and service experience. He will oversee the consumer facing applications, digital touchpoints and enterprise systems supporting the company's products, processes and services."

Rafiq built McDonalds digital efforts from scratch and headed global efforts to transform its consumer experience though the use of technology.

A veteran of Silicon Valley, he has held a variety of general management positions at leading global technology companies including Amazon, Yahoo!, and AOL. Rafiq was also the co-founder and CEO of a start-up and has advised, invested and served on the boards of over 10 start-ups. He will be a member of Volvo Cars executive management team and starts on 2 January 2017.

"The automotive industry is changing rapidly. This means that Volvo must also change rapidly. Part of this involves rethinking how customers buy [our] cars and then how they interact with them once they have bought them. Atif is ideally qualified to speed up our development in this area," said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive.

Rafiq said: "I believe the automotive industry faces its biggest inflection point in literally 100 years. Whether it's new technologies like computer vision and machine learning, or changing consumer behaviours around sharing and mobility, the scope for leveraging digitisation is huge. I see in Volvo a company that has fully embraced these challenges and can lead the industry into the future."

Volvo has announced ambitious plans in order remain at the forefront of a rapidly changing automotive industry when it comes to autonomous driving, electrification and connectivity/digitisation.

It will, in 2017, inaugurate what it claims is the world's largest autonomous driving experiment, called Drive Me, in which 100 families will drive autonomous driving cars on real roads around Gothenburg in Sweden. Their experiences will be used to co-develop the company's future autonomous driving cars.

Volvo Cars has also announced its intention to create a joint venture software development company alongside Autoliv, the global automotive safety company, to develop autonomous drive software, as well as a deal with Uber, the US ride sharing company, to co-develop high level base cars for autonomous driving usage.

It has also announced plans to have 1m electrified cars on the roads globally by 2025.

"In many ways, the development of cars that are autonomous, electrified and connected overlap. Rafiq will help ensure that all of these developments are pursued in a cohesive, strategic and technologically-advanced way," said Samuelsson.

Klas Bendrik, currently senior vice president group IT, will support Rafiq in the transition and thereafter leave Volvo Cars for a new position.

"Klas has built up a strong IT organisation over the last six years and led the charge in ensuring digitisation has become a central part of our strategic agenda. I wish him all the best in his new role," added Samuelsson.