In an interview with Tracy Herman, the senior manager of fleet sales for Volvo Cars USA, Automotive Fleet discussed the company's short-term and long-term strategies to achieve its goals, resale values, product availability, and the company's focus on safety technologies to improve fleet driver and pedestrian safety.
Also, learn more about how Volvo is optimizing driver ergonomics, particularly how the company designed seats that earned an endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association.
AF: As the Senior Manager of fleet sales for Volvo Cars USA, what are your short-term and long-term strategies to achieve your goals?
Herman: In the short term, our plan is to increase awareness of our portfolio of products along with the personal touch our fleet team offers current and potential clients.
Our fleet team at Volvo Cars USA is made up of individuals with decades of experience in automotive. We are a perfect blend with experience in and understanding fleet management, fleet management companies, retail, and OEM operations.
Our long-term strategy is to align ourselves with organizations that share our core values of being personal (human-centric), sustainable, and safe. We also want to seek out companies with electrification and sustainability goals aligned with our own.
AF: An important factor is residual values when calculating the total cost of ownership. How does Volvo rank in terms of retention percentage in resale value at the end of a vehicle’s fleet lifecycle?
Herman: Residuals for Volvo Cars continue to improve, and we expect those to hold strong over the next few years. Overall, we are very much in line with our premium competitors.
Our XC90 remains strong even though the current model is in its 9th year of production.
Strong residuals and complimentary maintenance both help make TCOs extremely attractive. In fact, our very own S60 Recharge plug-in hybrid earned Vincentric’s 2023 Best Fleet Value in America award in the Luxury Mid-Size Sedan segment.
AF: Sourcing constraints have been a key challenge for many fleets. What is the current availability of Volvo products for fleets looking to add to their fleet portfolio?
Herman: I can simply sum this up by saying that Volvo is “open for business!” We currently have a healthy availability of all models and would welcome any fleet looking to add our award-winning vehicles to their portfolio. Volvo has weathered supply chain challenges very well over the past few years. This has helped bring in quite a few new clients over the last year and a half.
The overwhelming majority of these new clients continue ordering vehicles into model year 2024. We continuously get feedback from fleet managers that their drivers absolutely love our vehicles, just as they love our company and what we stand for.
AF: With Volvo’s safety DNA long-established, what is Volvo doing to leverage further safety technologies and capabilities to improve fleet driver and pedestrian safety?
Herman: Safety is at the forefront of what we do at Volvo Cars, so it should be no surprise that we will introduce vehicles with cutting-edge safety technology over the next few years.
The standard safety in the Volvo EX90 is higher than any Volvo car before. It’s designed to understand you and your surroundings to help keep you, your loved ones, and others in traffic safe. It can also get smarter and safer over time as it learns from new data and receives updates.
The Volvo EX90 has an invisible shield of safety enabled by our latest sensing technology, inside and out. State-of-the-art sensors like cameras, radars, and lidar are connected to the car’s high-performance core computers to create a real-time, 360-degree view of the world.
Inside, our invisible shield of safety also looks out for you. Special sensors and cameras, powered by our own in-house developed algorithms, gauge eye gaze concentration. The technology allows the Volvo EX90 to understand when you’re distracted, drowsy, or otherwise inattentive beyond what has been possible in a Volvo car to date.
AF: One important factor in driver safety is ergonomics. Could you address how Volvo is optimizing driver ergonomics, particularly how Volvo designed its seats that earned the endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association?
Herman: I’ve been in the automotive industry for over 20 years and have driven all kinds of vehicles. On long drives, I often suffered serious lower back pain. Since joining Volvo Cars almost a decade ago, I have not experienced that pain at all, even after many very long drives in various Volvo models.
Our seat design provides comfortable support from the shoulders to the thighs. Eight-way power adjustment, power multi-directional lumbar support, available heated/cooled seats, and even an available massage feature add another level to driver and passenger comfort.
Another aspect of improved ergonomics in our vehicles is our latest infotainment technology with built-in Google apps and services. The voice-activated Google Assistant is a very helpful support while you keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. The driver can carry out many functions by simply asking the Google Assistant.
AF: Volvo supports the corporate sustainability initiatives of its clients. Can you provide information about the Volvo EX30 and EX90?
Herman: At Volvo Cars, sustainability is now just as important as safety. We believe that sustainability is more than just vehicle emissions and aim to be a climate-neutral company by 2040 by looking at everything that goes into building cars, from the material used in production, logistics, and even what happens at the end of the vehicle’s life.
In our EX90, over 15% of the vehicle’s plastic will be recycled plastic and bio-based materials. Steel body components will also be 15% recycled steel, and 25% of all interior materials will be made from recycled content.
The EX30 will contain 17% recycled steel and plastic, 25% recycled aluminum, and a leather-free interior comprising many renewable or recycled materials. Available Bio-attributed Nordico upholstery and FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) wood decors in the EX90 contribute to sustainability.
We feel that many companies would be excited to partner with Volvo Cars to help achieve their sustainability goals, and we are always seeking those with goals aligned with ours.
AF: Another example of Volvo’s safety DNA has been its work with fire departments nationwide on properly using the jaws of life when dealing with EV fires. Could you elaborate on this public service outreach program on the part of Volvo?
Herman: In 1959, Volvo Cars invented the three-point safety belt, maybe the most effective automotive safety device ever. Rather than hold the patent and gain a competitive advantage, we decided to make this major advancement in vehicle safety available to all who wanted to use it.
This demonstrates our commitment to safety for the greater good. This mindset lives on with us today in an age where rapid EV adoption presents new safety challenges.
Realizing this, we are giving first responders access to our fully electric vehicles to help update training procedures and real-life protocols so we can help them learn how to quickly and safely extricate passengers and keep first responders safe.
So far, we have donated an XC40 Recharge to the New York City Fire Department and another to the Boston Fire Department and invited our local fire department to practice extrication procedures at our U.S. headquarters.