LONG-SERVING international Volvo Cars executive and inaugural CEO of the Polestar electric high-performance brand, Nick Connor, has been appointed the new managing director of Volvo Cars in Australia.
Filling the vacancy created when Kevin McCann left the company late last year, Mr Connor, who has already relocated to Sydney and whose official start date is imminent, will play a key role in turning around Volvo’s fortunes in Australia and, before too long, preparing for the launch of the Polestar brand here.
He takes over from Volvo Car Australia (VCA) acting managing director and sales director Stephen Connor (no relation) after serving for the past nine months as Volvo Cars’ vice-president in charge of the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, based at the Swedish car-maker’s global headquarters in Gothenburg.
He was previously the inaugural CEO of Polestar, overseeing its establishment as a standalone brand charged with the design, development and production of separately branded, high-performance electrified cars after it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Volvo Cars in 2015.
This is now underway with the just-launched left-hand-drive-only Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid coupe – which is not slated for sale in Australia – and will be followed by the Polestar 2 compact sedan and Polestar 3 mid-size SUV, both of which will be built in right-hand drive and are expected to be released here after production begins in 2020 and 2022 respectively.
A Brit, Mr Connor presided over Polestar from mid-2016 – when he took over from acting CEO Bjorn Sallstrom – until June last year, when Volvo’s global design chief Thomas Ingenlath took his place and another veteran British automotive industry executive, Jonathan Goodman, was brought in as chief operating officer.
Marking a return of an international Volvo Cars executive as head of the Australian operations, Mr Connor brings more than two decades’ top-level experience with the Swedish brand to the position.
Much of this was spent at Volvo Car UK, where he was managing director for four years (from May 2012, after a year as acting MD) and is credited with achieving a 60 per cent increase in sales volume in the British market.
He earlier served in various key roles at the UK subsidiary over more than 15 years, including sales director, sales and aftersales director, sales and network director, network and ownership director, and group solicitor and company secretary.
Stephen Connor now resumes as sales and marketing director, adding the marketing function to his role, while Julie Hutchinson, a former marketing executive at Lexus Australia, has joined as senior manager of marketing.
Volvo’s sales fell 20.4 per cent in Australia last year to 4681 units but, as GoAuto has reported, the company is expecting an immediate turnaround this year with a 33 per cent year-on-year increase, largely on the back of its SUV model range.
After the first two months of trading, Volvo is at the exact point it was last year, with 806 sales to the end of February, while the launch of the all-new XC40 SUV in May should provide a shot in the arm for the brand.
Meanwhile, Volvo Car Australia’s senior manager of dealer performance and competence, Stuart Mitchell, has taken on a newly defined role as senior manager of VCA’s network department.
This wide-ranging role sees him responsible for managing and controlling the legal aspects of the dealer relationship – including the appointment and termination process – and leading the rollout of the brand’s latest corporate identification to the network.
He is also responsible for co-ordinating the dealer franchise steering committee, monitoring and developing dealer profitability and performance, initiating and evaluating dealer competence and overseeing all training and network strategy and support.
By Terry Martin