Volvo names new U.S. sales chief as sales decline

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 21, 2015 9:27 AM

DETROIT (Reuters) - Volvo Cars on Wednesday named a new head of North America as the Swedish auto brand tries to reverse lagging sales in a growing U.S. market.

Lex Kerssemakers, 55, was named senior vice president of the Americas as well as president and CEO of Volvo Cars of North America. He will report to Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson. Kerssemakers is currently senior vice president for product strategy and vehicle line management.

“The U.S. is a key market for the development of the group and today we get back onto the front foot," Kerssemakers said in a statement. "Volvo is not only in the U.S. to stay, it is in the U.S. to prosper.”

Volvo faces an uphill battle in the U.S. market, the world's second largest behind China, given the product onslaught from the German luxury automakers BMW and Daimler's Mercedes, the renaissance at Toyota Motor Corp's Lexus brand and the turnaround efforts at General Motors Co's Cadillac and Ford Motor Co's Lincoln brands.

Last year, Volvo's U.S. sales fell 8 percent to just over 56,000 in an industry where overall sales rose 6 percent. Volvo, a unit of China's Geely [GEELY.UL], is targeting U.S. sales of more than 100,000 vehicles "in the medium term," driven by a revamp of the entire product portfolio by the end of 2017 and a significant increase in the marketing budget.

“The scale of our ambition in the American region meant we needed a member of our executive management team with the drive, determination and motivation to make it happen,” Samuelsson said.

In January 2014, Samuelsson said Volvo would outperform the U.S. sales market last year, and last month he said Volvo's U.S. sales in 2015 would increase.

Kerssemakers' predecessor, Tony Nicolosi, will become president of Volvo Cars Financial Services for the Americas.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Nick Zieminski)