The Volvo Group is eyeing further growth in Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as the UAE in 2012, a senior executive said, warning that the economic outlook for the year ahead was difficult to call.
Anders Osberg, chief financial officer of the Volvo Group — which manufacturers trucks and construction machinery parallel to Volvo Cars, the consumer cars division — was speaking in advance of Volvo's 2011 fourth quarter results due on Friday.
"It is an attractive place to be, we are looking at relationships with banks and so on to try and sell our products even further," Osberg said. "There are potential markets for us today where we haven't been that active before but are trying to break into now.
"Saudi Arabia, for instance, is a potential good market from the trucks and construction equipment perspective."
Osberg said that Volvo Group, which had sales of $45 billion (Dh165.15 billion) in the third quarter of 2011, was comfortable with its presence in emerging markets, including China and the Middle East, and was waiting to see what picture would develop in Europe and the United States.
"We see a much more balanced picture and this is how we would like to be in the future," he said. "In an economic downturn it is good not to have to rely on a single market... The first six months of 2012 will be very much guiding where we are heading in these different key markets. I think we're coming into a situation where it is very hard to make any kind of economic forecast."
Speaking about China, a key market for Volvo Cars especially since its highly publicised tie-up with Chinese automaker Geely, Osberg said that Volvo Group benefited from brand recognition in the country.
"The awareness of the brand name Volvo is never a disadvantage for us," he said. "The perception in China is because of the passenger car and it is easier for people to put their hands on a car and say, it's a Volvo. Our task is to make sure our products are recognised in China too."
But he admitted that, unlike some other markets, China was very much dependent on the macro-economic policies in Beijing. In the years following the financial crisis, China provided subsidies on small cars which boosted the domestic market, but has since taken measures to try to cool it down.
"I think you expect a little bit to have the market on [the government's] radar screen so that every-thing is compliant with their inflationary goals and objectives," he said. "They are quite direct on that."
Speaking about the Volvo Ocean Race, which Volvo has owned and operated for more than a decade and was held in Abu Dhabi this month, Osberg said that the firm deliberately chose ports that could be beneficial in wooing customers.