Steering Volvo Through Thailand, Volvo Thailand
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phuket Leisure: Volvo

 Steering Volvo Through Thailand

By Ingram

Tall, distinguished, fast-talking, friendly and a Volvo man to the core, Karl-Johan Sandesjo, president of Volvo Car Corporation, Thailand, exudes confidence in the future for his fleet of sleek, modern, family vehicles with an offering of cars and niche vehicles that also appeal to today's fast-paced businessman. Their heritage, second to none, the original "safest car in the world", rolls on throughout Thailand with Karl-Johan securely and competently in the driver's seat.

Coming to Thailand in 1999 from spells in both Korea and Singapore, Karl-Johan compliments his intimate knowledge of the technology and market positioning of these famous cars with an appreciation and delight of working in Asia. Integrating well into Thai culture and lifestyle, himself, his wife and two teenage daughters are enjoying their new Asian experiences, which range from an appreciation of Thai art and design to the delights of sailing in the pristine waters of Phang Na Bay.

Immensely proud that Volvo was the first wholly owned car manufacturer in Thailand, establishing itself here in 1971, Karl-Johan looks back on his company's successes and forward to its exciting future. Market share has fluctuated little in the past few years for Volvo. The products have retained their appeal to the businessman; an appeal based on size and comfort, safety and performance; as well as establishing themselves as one of the first choices of modern families looking for quality and environmentally conscious stylishness and reliability. Since 1971, 50,000 Volvo cars from different model series have been sold in Thailand and at the present time, 33,000 of these owners are still loyal Volvo customers. At the present time, sales of Volvo cars approach some 2,000 per year, a market share of around 20% in the segment in which Volvo competes. Volvo regards Thailand as a mature market with many cars still on the roads from older model series. Although in Bangkok the population numbers around 10 million, only about 10,000-12,000 of them change cars in the premium segment every year. Of the Volvo cars on the road, some are driven by chauffeurs and many have inherited or have found their way onto the used car market. For this reason, the aftersales market is more important in Thailand to Volvo than it is in many other countries.

More than ten years have passed since Karl-Johan and his family left Sweden to bring his distinctively calm yet perceptive management style to Thailand, honing it on the way through marketing and management positions in Germany, Korea and Singapore. He now leads some 500 assembly, sales, marketing and administrative personnel in Thailand. The full range of Volvo cars is manufactured here, with the exception of niche products, such as the Cabriolet. Karl-Johan reaffirms that there is absolutely no difference in quality between the cars manufactured in Sweden or in Thailand. Approximately 40% of the ex-factory cost of Volvo cars produced in Thailand can be directly attributed to value added by Thai employees and components manufactured entirely in Thailand. Moreover, many items, especially the dashboard combi instrument panel is wholly manufactured in Thailand and exported to other Volvo plants throughout the world. Thus the Volvo car corporation plays a major part in providing work for many Thai families and fulfils an important role as an income generator of note to the Thai economy.

A brand image is not simply created by good product quality, design or performance, it also includes the reception customers are given, the attitude of the staff and the assistance that is offered in difficult situations. For this reason, in October 2001, Volvo Thailand introduced "Volvo Assistance". By summer 2002, 1,700 Volvo owners had joined the service, which is unique in this sector in Thailand because of the scope of the offer. If the car cannot be dealt with the same day, the customer can choose between staying at an hotel or flying to his final destination. After it has been repaired, the car is transported to the customer. This service covers even simple defects like a puncture or minor repairs. Small wonder therefore that in the latest survey (conducted by ACORN) in the segment in which Volvo competes, Volvo emerged as number 1 in Customer Satisfaction.

Karl-Johan really enjoys working with his Thai staff, appreciating their smoothness and talent in being able to fix almost everything, whilst always ensuring that sensible and workable compromises are reached in the working environment; although he is the first to admit that he has no idea how they do it! Volvo believes in constant and culturally sensitive training for all its employees, especially encouraging its Thai staff to further develop their assertiveness, responsibility and authority.

Excitement is building as Volvo prepares to launch its new 4x4 vehicle into Thailand. A powerful roomy, yet sleek addition to the fleet. Karl-Johan believes it will have immense appeal to the people who really enjoy their driving yet prefer to do so in a vehicle that is able to go almost anywhere whilst possessing the very latest in modern gadgetry and performance. He remained a little tight-lipped as we requested more details of this exciting vehicle, which, like its forebears, will be built in Thailand and thus not be subject to huge import duties. Despite his benevolent reticence, we could discern his excitement as his face lit up and his eyes twinkled at the thought of manufacturing and marketing this very special vehicle throughout Thailand, - BMW, Land Rover and Mercedes, - look out!



- Febuary 2003, Volume 6 Issue 2

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