Last year was a great one not just for Volvo Cars globally, but for Volvo Car Malaysia (VCM) as well. The local unit recorded sales of 1,384 units in 2018, a 35% increase from 2017 (1,021 units) and a 48% jump from 2016 figures (934 units). The company says that the growth is testament to the transformation plan that was put into motion since the introduction of the XC90 in late 2015.

Malaysia is Volvo’s regional production hub, and last year, the company exported 1,889 units of the V40, XC40, S60, V60, XC60 and XC90 to Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines and Vietnam. This was possible due to investments made to the Shah Alam plant to accommodate more volume and new platforms such as the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA underpins the 60 and 90 range) and the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA is used by the XC40).

The transformation plan is a multi-pronged strategy that involves an overhaul of retail operations, customer touch points, and product offerings. “From a consumer standpoint, the first visible change to our existing retail operations is the implementation of Volvo Retail Experience (VRE), a dealer standard that perfectly complements our new and exciting product line,” said Lennart Stegland, MD of VCM.

VRE is a comprehensive standard that covers critical aspects of a dealership and aims to bring a more customer-focused experience based on Volvo’s Scandinavian-inspired values: from the look and feel of the showroom to the quality of service rendered. The transformation also took customer service experience into consideration. Volvo’s Customer Experience Management scores, gathered from a survey of service customers, had doubled from 2017.

Volvo Service Agreement was unveiled last year. This service agreement includes a comprehensive service package that covers replacement of most wear-and-tear parts (excluding tyres), giving owners the freedom of choosing between three or five year plans.

“It is common practice within the industry to include the cost of services packages into the sticker price of the car. We are challenging this by being transparent about these costs and letting the customers select a plan that is more suited to their individual preferences,” added Stegland.

This year will see VCM roll out a new service concept called Volvo Personalised Service. A new management system to ensure optimum availability of parts called Volvo Managed Inventory will also be introduced this year.

As for Volvo’s dealership network, VCM has grown its nationwide presence to a total of 11 dealerships including the recent re-introduction of the brand in Kuching, Sarawak. This year, VCM is aiming to expand its network to locations that are currently not represented by the brand.

On the financial services front, VCM had introduced Volvo Car Leasing – a first for the brand in Southeast Asia – that lets customers enjoy Volvo ownership minus the usual restrictions of a hire-purchase agreement. The company plans to introduce Volvo Insurance in partnership with AXA Insurance later this year. VCM is projecting double-digit growth in 2019, propelled by the XC40 SUV and the opening of more retail locations.

On a separate note, VCM has announced the appointment of Nalin Jain as its new MD, replacing the retiring Lennart Stegland from March 2019. Before taking up this role, Jain was the CFO of Volvo Auto India. He has over 20 years of experience in the automotive, consulting, and technology fields; and holds a master’s degree in engineering from State University of New York and an MBA from the Sloan School of Management in MIT.