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
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
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!