Volvo CEO: ‘There are no ifs, ands or buts’ about electric shift

Since starting at the company in March, what have you seen that makes you confident Volvo can reach its goals of being electric-only by 2030 and getting halfway there by 2025?

That direction remains solid and it’s a great strategy for us. We set ourselves an ambitious goal and when you do this you are saying there are no ifs, ands or buts. That is the direction of travel. That means every hire that we make, every investment decision that we make, every design choice for our cars that we make are geared toward achieving that strategy. That helps us as a company stay focused on where the end game is. Whereas I think some competitors are still trying to figure out how quickly they can get there and whether they can ride two horses at the same time. We don’t have that ambiguity. I can feel it in the organization. People get it and understand where we are heading.

Why do you believe the US will be ready for Volvo’s all-electric future by 2030, especially since Mercedes recently told US dealers it expects EVs to only account for about 50 percent of sales by then?

First of all, we are starting to see the US, even at a government level, start to lean into that shift. Secondly, the simplest comparison is, well, Tesla managed it. We are now looking at things through the lens of electrification. We are totally focused on battery-electric vehicles. There is no reason why that this shouldn’t be technically possible.

What about Europe?

We are seeing strong demand for our BEVs (battery-electric vehicles), specifically in Europe where we are starting to reach that inflection point. I think the mindset of the consumer is more progressive toward BEVs than in some other parts of the world. But this mindset shift will accelerate globally as well because along with being great for the environment the vehicles offer a nice driving experience in terms of the technology.

How is that helping get more people to switch?

When people talk about electrification, it really is the tip of the iceberg. Yes, consumers that buy an electric car are looking to be more environmentally friendly, but they also expect to get that extra level of connectivity, an upgraded infotainment system and an overall package that offers more modern features and functionality. So, while we classify this under electrification, to some extent it’s more about bringing the next-generation automotive to the forefront.

Dyson has successfully made everyday products such as vacuums and fans more visually and technically appealing. Cars start out being quite captivating, but electric vehicles have been relatively boring to look at. Can you break that trend with your next EV?

Let’s hope so. By the way, I think that’s a conversation about lifestyle and the use of the product. This includes the little Easter eggs that you find that cause you to say, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” I think that is what has been lacking to some extent. So, let’s hope we at Volvo can deliver not only a product that has great range, is fantastic good looking, safe and reliable but that also has a “Wow” factor to it.

Did you get bitten by the automotive bug when you were working with Dyson on its car project?

As an engineer, automotive is one of those big industries that everybody looks to when they are growing up. It’s something prevalent in everybody’s life from the time they get a driver’s license and get that sense of freedom a car provides. In addition, the changes that were happening in the automotive sector around the time that we got involved in our project at Dyson probably highlighted that in a more visceral way. And then you join someone like Volvo, and it becomes amplified to the next level because you get to see the design studios, the future products and all of those exciting things that get the blood flowing.

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