Volvo Will Skip Auto Shows in Strategy Switch-Up

Volvo V60 Cross Country
Source: Volvo

It’s hard to back away from the bright lights and glitz from the world’s auto show circuit, but Swedish automaker Volvo is doing just that. The company has decided to take things in a different direction, vowing to only participate in a fraction of the world’s auto shows each year, rather than packing up and hitting the entire tour. Instead, Volvo will only take part in one show in each respective region, including Geneva, Detroit, and either Shanghai or Beijing in Asia.

“We have been doing what is expected in the car industry so far, and we’re going to do things that are unexpected,” Alain Visser, Volvo’s head of marketing and sales told Bloomberg. He added that the company was ready to take a different approach.

That approach, as it turns out, is a part of an overarching new global marketing strategy, which the company just announced. Included in the new plan is a bump in Volvo’s overall marketing budget, a Volvo-branded event that will take place in lieu of traditional auto show stops, and new online channels to engage with customers and dealerships.

“The car industry is one of the most conservative, least evolutionary marketing clusters in global business,” said Visser in a press release. “For decades, car marketing has been following a certain pattern, which is followed by the entire car industry. Now, Volvo Cars chooses to defy that logic and implement a strategy that is geared towards its own needs.”

Included in the new strategy, which is being dubbed the “Volvo Way to Market”, are an increased focus on four key areas, including service, dealerships, marketing tools, and digital leadership. While that definitely sounds like some corporate jargon meant to appease company higher-ups and investors, it does signal an intent to get back to the basics in terms of car sales — which may be exactly what customers are thirsting for. Take a look at Tesla’s sales strategy — it’s vastly different from traditional dealerships (and in many states, illegal), but is one of the things that Tesla’s customers love so much about the company.

Volvo Concept Estate
Source: Volvo

By taking a different approach to selling cars, like so few other automakers do, Volvo is likely exploring an opportunity to set themselves apart from an ever-increasingly saturated market. “With the Volvo Way to Market, we don’t want to throw all existing marketing concepts overboard,” said Visser. “Many of them exist for a good reason. We also don’t want to have the arrogance to say that we are better than all the rest. But we do have the self-confidence to say that we are different. So our way to market needs to be different as well.”

While the new strategy may be reason for excitement for consumers and members of Volvo’s internal staff, it may look like a crazy move to others in the industry. As Bloomberg reports, some of Volvo’s biggest rivals — including European luxury automakers like BMW, Audi and Mercedes — have instead embraced the limelight that the world’s large auto shows provide to show off their latest and greatest wares. And those auto shows, some of which Volvo is planning to skip, are driving in attendees and potential customers at numbers not seen in more than a decade.

But then again, Volvo may be circling the wagons in an attempt to gain some momentum. They are a relatively small company compared to their competitors, and by taking a different approach, the company may be able to find some in-roads to consumers that others are overlooking. In other words, Volvo’s small size affords it a certain level of agility and nimbleness in the market that the bigger conglomerates lack. For example, do you think that BMW could suddenly make a similar decision? They could, but it would be much more difficult. And there are a lot more people to try and convince of the idea’s merit.

By taking a different approach to auto sales and auto marketing as a whole, Volvo is definitely taking a calculated risk. If they can capitalize even a bit off of what Tesla has done with their sales strategy, it will likely pay off. But again, depending on where you’re coming from, the move likely looks either brilliant, or downright crazy.