Lex Kerssemakers, the Netherlands native who steered Volvo's rebirth in Canada and the U.S. over the past 32 months, is moving on to lead the largest region for the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker.
Kerssemakers, 57, will become senior vice president for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, which makes up more than half of Volvo's global sales. He will be replaced as head of the Americas, which includes Canada, by the current head of that region, Anders Gustafsson, 48. The changes take effect Sept. 15.
Just as Kerssemakers took the Americas’ helm, as Volvo was in the midst of introducing a flurry of reputation-boosting new products, Gustafsson arrives at a pivotal time. The company's first U.S. assembly plant is set to open next year, providing a new production source for an automaker that has been pinched this year by tight supplies of vehicles such as the top-selling XC90 — so far this year, the automaker has sold 1,492 units in Canada.
Though Volvo still has much to do before reaching its five-year goals for the U.S. established in 2015, Kerssemakers said in an interview that he's also focusing more on industry trends that will affect the brand globally.
Those include mobility, electrification and changing consumer behaviors. In July, Volvo pledged that all new models introduced in 2019 and after would run on electrified powertrains.
By 2020, Volvo expects to break its annual U.S. sales record of 139,067, set in 2004 under Ford Motor Co. ownership. From 2014 through 2016, the automaker increased U.S. sales 47 per cent to 82,724 vehicles. Sales are down 9.2 per cent through July, but Kerssemakers says demand will pick this year with adjusted supply.
"Volvo should sell 150,000 vehicles a year in the U.S. [by 2020]," he said. We're still on that journey, but we have our global challenges. We need to push it to the next level in the next two to three years, together with our retailers."
Canada’s numbers are better so far this year. Sales are up 2.8 per cent to 3,811 through the first seven months of 2017.
After total Volvo sales in Canada were down four per cent at 4,466 vehicles in 2014 when compared with the year before, the automaker surged in the next two years. Sales were up 7.2 per cent in 2015 when compared with 2014 and up 27 per cent year-over-year to 6,103 vehicles in 2016.