Volvo appoints former Dyson chief as new CEO

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Jim Rowan will replace Håkan Samuelsson as CEO and president of Volvo Cars from March 21, 2022.

Overnight the Swedish automaker, which is majority owned by Chinese brand Geely, announced it has concluded its search for a new CEO with a “strong background in software, digital transformation and innovative consumer products”.

Rowan is currently the CEO of Ember Technologies, which currently sells internet-connected mugs in various sizes.

Before this he was chief operating officer of Dyson from 2012. Rowan was then CEO of the Singapore-based luxury appliance maker from 2017 to 2020.

During his time in charge of Dyson, the firm and its founder invested around $1 billion to develop a seven-seat crossover with solid state batteries.

After two years of development, the SUV was axed in 2019 as the firm believed it “simply cannot make it commercially viable”. Engineered in largely in the UK, the Dyson crossover was to be built in a purpose-built factory in Singapore.

Heading up Dyson isn’t Rowan’s only high profile job, between 2007 and 2012 he was the COO of phone maker BlackBerry, a period in which Apple’s iPhone and devices based on the Android operating system came to dominate the smartphone market.

Rowan has a bachelors degree in mechanical and production engineering, and a masters in business supply chain and logistics.

He began his career at Tate & Lyle’s engineering division before moving on to Digital Equipment Corporation, International Components Corporation, Celestica, and electronics contract manufacturer Flex.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he is also currently a senior advisor for investment firm KKR, a board member of PCH, Nanofilm Technology, and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. He is also on the shareholders’ committee for Henkel, a German consumer goods firm.

Although based in Singapore at present, it’s believed Rowan will move to Sweden for his new role.

Samuelsson has been with Volvo since 2010 around Ford sold the Swedish brand to Geely. He has been the automaker’s CEO since 2012, and has seen the company launch a new range of vehicles based on its own platforms.

Under his leadership, Volvo’s engineering has been put to good use within the Geely empire. The CMA platform used by the XC40 and C40 crossovers also serves the basis of Polestar 2 EV, the entire Lynk & Co range, and various Geely vehicles.

In November 2021, Samuelsson oversaw Volvo’s partial floatation on the Nasdaq Sweden stock exchange. Parent Geely said the 20 billion Swedish krona ($3.2 billion) raised in the listing will go towards ensuring Volvo can meet its target of becoming a pure EV manufacturer by 2030.

After earning his mechanical engineering degree in the mid-70s, Samuelsson joined truck maker Scania. He gradually rose through the company’s ranks before joining the board in 1996, and overseeing the firm’s production and research arms.

He then jumped over to German truck firm MAN in 2000 becoming its CEO in 2005.

“Volvo Cars is going through a rapid transformation of digitalization which is why we wanted to bring in someone with global CEO experience from outside the automotive industry,” Eric Li, Volvo chairperson, said in a prepared statement.

“Jim is the right person to accelerate Volvo Cars into the future – enabling it to become the fastest transformer in its field and a fully electric company with millions of direct consumer relationships.”

Li praised outgoing CEO Samuelsson for his tenure where he helped to create “a renewed and strong product line, re-established Volvo as a premium brand that is well placed for the future, and enabled the successful listing”.

Samuelsson will stay with Volvo until Rowan takes over in March. He will then leave the Swedish automaker entirely, but will stay on as the chairperson of Polestar, which is 49 per cent owned by Volvo.

Polestar is planning to list on Nasdaq stock exchange later this year by merging with a special purpose acquisition company.

MORE: Who’s running the world’s carmakers?

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Derek Fung

Derek Fung would love to tell you about his multiple degrees, but he's too busy writing up some news right now. In his spare time Derek loves chasing automotive rabbits down the hole. Based in New York, New York, Derek loves to travel and is very much a window not an aisle person.

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