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Volvo seels 1/3 of S60Rs amd V70Rs through its website

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MARKETING: Volvo sells a third of its R car allotment over Net

By Frank S. Washington

Automotive News / April 14, 2003

Volvo has taken 1,500 orders for the S60 R, above, and the V70 R since the cars debuted in October.

The first thing John Maloney does when he arrives in his office at 7:30 a.m. is to check the chat rooms of several Web sites to see what's being said about Volvo.

Maloney, vice president of communications for Volvo Cars of North America Inc., had one of his lieutenants enter a chat room to say that Volvo was sponsoring a ride and drive for its retailers and potential buyers of Volvo's new performance cars, the S60 R and the V70 R.

More than 1,000 people from 35 states registered for the program, which will be in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York this year. One event will be in Montreal for Canadian buyers.

Maloney proudly points out that these would-be buyers will pay their own way to the ride and drives, and he says they signed on before Volvo sent out the first piece of direct mail soliciting drivers.

Volvo Cars of North America is as Internet savvy as any automaker.

The division spent an estimated $6.1 million on the Internet in 2002, representing one-fourth of the estimated $24 million that parent Ford Motor Co. spent on Internet marketing that year.

In the fall of 2000, Volvo was the first manufacturer to introduce a vehicle, the S60, solely on the Internet, at the AOL.com site.

The company has become so adept at Internet marketing that it has snared 1,500 orders for the S60 R and V70 R since the cars debuted at the Miami auto show in October. And Volvo hasn't advertised its R cars, which go on sale in May. It all has been done by Internet.

The number of orders is significant because only 4,200 R cars will be sold in North America annually, 3,800 of them in the United States. In other words, Volvo has sold one-third of its North American allotment of R cars by using the Internet and without running an ad.

People who order an XC90 will have to wait until July or August to get it. Maloney says 8,000 XC90 orders came in over the Internet. The vehicle went on sale in the United States in October. The company sold 4,379 of the SUVs in 2002 and 6,093 the first quarter of 2003.

Still, Maloney said the Internet is not a primary awareness generator. "It is a tool for sharing information," he says.

And by seeding the Internet with information, Volvo is selling cars in cyberspace.

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