Volvo and its electric dreams for Thailand
The Nation Thailand has a chat with Mr. Chris Wailes, Managing Director of Volvo Car (Thailand) Limited, on the automaker’s strategy for 2022.
The Nation Thailand has a chat with Mr.Chris Wailes, Managing Director of Volvo Car (Thailand) Limited, on the automaker’s strategy for 2022.
Q: Volvo cars have, for decades, been seen as the safest cars in the world. Is this still part of Volvo’s core strategy today?
A: Yes, I mean safety has been part of Volvo’s heart and DNA since 1927, when the company was first founded. It has remained a cornerstone of what we do. But as times change, technology changes… people tend to look at safety in a slightly different way. And what we're looking at in particular is how we continue to make electric cars.
Pure electric cars are the safest in the world as they utilize new technologies that are available, from sensors to laser radar, in different forms. We still believe both today and as well as tomorrow that we will continue to be one of the safest cars in the world. So, it will always be. We will use technology and showcase our technology to make our customers’ lives much easier when they’re driving the car because it will be very simple to use and will only intervene when is necessary.
Q: With the changing car market in Thailand, and as you say the electric car is now the world trend, what is Volvo’s stance on this technology?
A: We were one of the first traditional car manufacturers to come out in 2019 to state that all our new cars will be electric moving forwards. And we have a very clear goal, especially here in Thailand. From my perspective, it’s much easier generally to convert to electric cars in Europe because electricity infrastructure is a little bit more widely available.
But in Thailand, we took the decision in 2018 that we would move away from traditional internal combustion engines to electrification starting with plug-in hybrid cars last year. And we found that investing in charging stations will just not be able to cover everyone.
We included for every customer a wall box fitted to their home or their office as part of the car. So in that sense, we've already setup many charging stations in people's homes, so it makes the transition to move from plug-in hybrid cars to pure electric cars much easier. And what we do know is that customers, who drive an electric car, whether it's a plug-in hybrid or full electric car, tend not to go back to a traditional internal combustion engine car.
So, our strategy is, by 2025 over half of the cars that we sell in Thailand will be pure electric cars only. And we will continue to launch, as we have done this year, a new pure electric car model into the Thailand market every year for the next four or five years. So, we are very much sure that electric cars are the future and of course we will take all the technology that we have to make sure it incorporates into a car that is very much appreciated by the Thai consumer.
Q: What is Volvo’s goal for 2022 and how will it reach this goal?
A: We’ve already launched our first pure electric car in Thailand and we received the response from consumers that they are very satisfied and delighted with their car. So, we will continue with the Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric and then next year we will launch another model another pure electric model in Thailand, which will come in the first half of next year.
Q: Could you tell us about the car that you just launched this year? How is it different from other electric cars in the market?
A: It very much depends on what the consumer is looking for, which will decide what they want to buy. Our first pure electric car is the Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric. From the outside, it looks very similar to the traditional XC40 with an internal combustion engine or a plug-in hybrid engine car.
Apart from the front grille obviously it's converted because there's no engine. So you'll see that there's a slight difference at the front of the car and of course when you lift the hood of the car at the front there is now additional storage area for bags or clothes or whatever you want to put in. For the range of the car, you can travel up to just over 400 kilometers on a single charge. The car will be charged with a DC charger up to 80 per cent of the battery capacity in under 40 minutes. It's a very useful for city travel. You've got more than enough range to meet normal daily use.
If you want to drive further distance we've tried to cover that as well, so we include in the price of the car access to our friends at each site anywhere and we include 25,000 baht of electricity in the application so if the customers decide to move away from their home and travel for the distance, for example, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai they can use the “EA Anywhere” application which offers access to the biggest number of charging stations in Thailand.
In addition, we will include what we call a Volvo care package. What we're trying to do is make the ownership of a car a lot easier and much more seamless for customers. So when a customer looks at an electric car from Volvo, included in the price of the car will be five years warranty and five years of maintenance.
It will also have four years digital services because of course the car is a fully connected car and includes things like Google Maps, Google Play store, Google voice control as well so it’s exactly the same as an Android mobile phone. In addition, we will include your insurance for three years, and of course it comes with an idea factory warranty on that and everything else.
It's a full package. Basically, for the customer, when they drive away in the car all they have to do is charge and that's what we believe is the future of mobility.
Q: How has Volvo coped with the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing situation?
A: Volvo has been no different to anybody else, I mean everybody has been affected by Covid-19. We saw a reduction last year, but it was a much smaller reductions than the general market. This year, obviously since April it's been a lot harder to manage than last year. Mainly because we closed the office for nearly six months. We've closely followed the advice from the CCSA (Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration) and we've had all the staff work from home.
But our focus has very much been on everybody's health and welfare. We're very aware of the economic impact it has on people, so actually what we did was increase people’s salary shifts and their benefits this year. So, actually we tried to offset some of the negative sides of Covid-19 with something positive and have given them security and safety, so they have nothing to worry about. And because we've been working from home for so long, we are very much concerned about people's mental welfare.
When you're working from home for long periods of time, you miss being in an office environment, talking to your friends and colleagues on a daily basis and interacting with people, when that stops and you're working from home and are isolated for long periods of time, it can affect people's mental wellbeing. So, we've organized online booster sessions where we send care packages through the mail to let everybody know that we care.
Q: The young generation’s perspective right now in Thailand is different from their parents, who were Baby Boomers. What do you think about this market and what is the most challenging factor?
A: Thailand is no different to the rest of the world. The whole world is changing now and things are moving very fast. We see digitalization is certainly expanding here in Thailand. More people buying things online and even ordering food.
So, what we need to do for the car manufacturer is to look at what people need and what people desire and make that technology included in the car that is easy for people to use as possible. Because there is no point, in my opinion, in importing technology in a car if people don't understand how to use the technology or benefit from technology. So we very much focus on design and of course safety technology, but more importantly we focus on sustainability that we made a core part of our business and we will not back away from it. And we will reduce our carbon footprint here in Thailand as well as across the rest of the world by 40 per cent by 2025.
That includes everything from manufacturing through to logistics, for example here in the headquarters; we replace single-use plastic with recyclable materials. For me it is a very important part moving forward because I have children myself. Our children are going to blame us if we don't try and fix things now for their benefit. Today people have to go and visit a retailer to have the car serviced or maintained.
Tomorrow, there will be no need for the customer to go because the retailers can service the car at their home or their office. Because with electric cars, there's very little to actually maintain on the car so instead of people having to travel to come to us actually we will go to the consumer – very different from how it's been over the last 40 years. We welcome suggestions from people on what they believe we should be looking at moving forward because like everybody else we don't know everything, but we try our best.