In October of 2012, when Håkan Samuelsson was named president and CEO of Volvo, the automaker was still trying to find its footing under then-still-new Geely ownership, after years of drift under Ford ownership. It’s safe to say that, in nine years under Samuelsson, it has.
Samuelsson’s successor, announced Tuesday, is Jim Rowan, the CEO of something called Ember Technologies and previously the CEO of Group Dyson. You probably know the Dyson name from the vacuums, though which also for a brief second considered trying to make a car. I have no idea how Rowan will do, but, if he’s half as successful as Samuelsson was, then he’ll probably consider it a job well done.
Because before Samuelsson it was safe to wonder just how long Volvo was for this world, even with new ownership in Geely. During Samuelsson, there was an exit from diesel; there were strong-selling new cars like the second-generation XC90; there was a new plant in South Carolina; there were some of the finest interiors in the luxury market, period; there were good profits; there was the establishment of Polestar on its own; there was the beginning of a post-leather future; there was the acceleration of Volvo’s electric future; there was the beginning of the bigger future; and, of course, there was Volvo going public, which was Samuelsson’s mic drop in October. After Samuelsson, I guess we’ll see.
In any case, Volvo said that Samuelsson will stick around until March, when Rowan will take over and also when Samuelsson will leave both the CEO job and his seat on Volvo’s board. Samuelsson will also remain as chair of Polestar, at least until Polestar goes public, too, sometime later this year.
This has all, in other words, been in the works for a bit, and I’d guess that, at 70, Samuelsson might be almost ready to call it a career. If I’m a little bummed, that’s because Samuelsson is a straight-shooter, and more thoughtful and accessible than most automaker CEOs, qualities which seemed to, as a result, permeate the company. Samuelsson knows what Volvo is and what it isn’t, and he also isn’t above taking hilarious shots at Volkswagen. Ask me to choose my automaker CEO fighter and well that’s easy. Ask me again in March, it’ll no longer be obvious.