Swedish luxury carmaker Volvo appoints the first Indian Managing Director, Jyoti Malhotra for its India operations. He was earlier the Director of Sales & Marketing at the company.
Malhotra talks to LuxeBook about Volvo’s India plans, the effects of the pandemic on the luxury automobile sector and sustainability.
Volvo made some big announcements about sustainability during the launch of its first EV, XC40 Recharge in India. What is the company’s sustainability agenda?
At Volvo, we have dedicated our business to help protect the lives of people, both, inside and outside of our cars. Our mission is to become climate neutral. In the not too distant future, we see a world where fully connected, autonomous electric vehicles are the answer to personal mobility needs. We care for the world in which we live in and have one of the most ambitious climate plans in the car industry.
We aim to reduce our CO2 emissions per car by 40 percent between now and 2025, a first tangible step towards our long-term goal of becoming climate neutral by 2040. We realise that electrification alone is not enough and so our climate ambitions go beyond radically reducing tailpipe emissions through all-out electrification. We will also tackle carbon emissions in our manufacturing network, our operations and our supply chain through our approach to recycling and reusing materials.
What is your business strategy going forward? How has it changed since March 2020?
Globally, we are committed to becoming an all-electric car company by 2030. Our ambition is to become a climate-neutral company by 2040. In India, we aim to do it even faster.
How has the automobile sector changed since March 2020?
The global automobile sector witnessed a big disruption due to the pandemic. In India, the sector is feeling the heat since March 2020. Almost every automobile manufacturer has seen negative growth in the last 12 months.
At Volvo, we work towards redefining the future of mobility. The pandemic made us work faster towards reimagining ourselves and our role in the life of consumers. With our commitment towards setting up the highest standards of sustainability by introducing fully electric offers by 2030 and creating transformative online showrooms.
How is Volvo coping in this sluggish market?
We are taking various initiatives to boost our sales and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We plan to launch three new models in 2021 to have a wide range of product offerings, followed by the launch of one electric car every year from 2022 onwards. We plan to lead the consumer to the future of mobility and hope our initiatives will recharge a post-Covid market.
Why did Volvo announce a price hike?
The price hike decision comes as a result of increased input cost and a volatile forex situation. Our commitment to the Indian market and our customers is reflected in the fact that while the Indian auto industry went through price escalation across the spectrum, we at Volvo Cars maintained the prices of all our products for three years since 2018. However, we are now faced with a situation where rising input costs leaves us with no other option, but share some of these costs with the customer. We may have to relook at the prices and may take some other decisions later in the year, depending on how input costs develop.
Are online sales preceding offline sales?
Yes, online sales have become the first preference for customers during the ongoing pandemic. We have introduced the ‘Volvo Contactless Program’ to promote online sales and social distancing. The power and trust that our brand command are reflected in the fact that we are receiving more than 50 per cent customer inquiries through online platforms. Globally, we have announced that all our electric cars will be available for online purchase only and we plan to follow this in India as well. However, a customer has the option of test driving a car before buying it.
What kind of sales has the company made since January 2020?
As you know, sales across the automobile spectrum have fallen during the pandemic. At Volvo Cars, we had recorded growth every year since our inception in the country until 2019. The pandemic year of 2020 was difficult for the entire industry. We hope to get back to pre COVID level in 2021 and gain more market share going forward.
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How do you ensure that your employees stay motivated in tough times such as these?
Employees are the backbone of any company or organization. As an employee-friendly company, we keep introducing policies and initiatives for our employees to keep them motivated. We support a culture of openness, integrity and accountability. Everyone working at or with Volvo Cars are as comfortable in the workplace as they are in family surroundings. Employees are our most valued asset and we respect and take care of them.
What kind of employee-friendly policies has Volvo India introduced in recent times?
Volvo is a people-centric company and places priority on the welfare of its employees, at the workplace and beyond. We had announced work from home for all our employees, even before the government imposed lockdown across the country in March 2020 and the company is still following the flexible working norms to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its employees.
We have also announced that the company would bear the cost of the COVID-19 vaccination for all its employees. This benefit would also extend to their spouses, children and parents who are eligible to receive the jab.
We announced that we will financially support employees if they need to be treated through ‘home care’ if any employee or any family member is affected by COVID-19, which is otherwise not supported by insurance.
The company has recently introduced ‘Family Bond’ a gender-neutral parental leave policy to ensure both parents engage in the joys of parenthood.
Are there any plans to launch new models in the near future?
Yes, we have already announced the launch of our first EV, XC40 Recharge in October 2021. We will also introduce petrol variants of our luxury sedan S90 and our premium SUV XC60 later this year.
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What are your expectations from the Indian government?