Thursday, December 3, 2009

One of the best Social Media gadgets I've ever come across....

Every now and then, you come across something that's so simple yet so effective that you just have to share it. So here it is. I would really encourage you to have a go for yourselves as this is one of those simple-to-use internet gadgets that could, if put into the right hands, do a fantastic job of bringing consumers and brands together.

http://www.tackfilm.se/

Just upload your photo and follow the instructions.

I challenge you to tell me I'm wrong. It's every-so-slightly slow but go on, I promise you you won't be disappointed.

Milan to Marlow - the movie

It's been a while since my last post - I've been waiting for the arrival of the promised short internet viral films from Volvo's recent Marlow to Milan (and back!) eco-driving challenge.

Everybody who tried to make the 810 mile journey did so, much to their surprise I think. Only one car didn't make it, but they gunned it all the way back and still got as far as Calais before needing to top up.

And as part of the event, we put two well-known comedians - Dom Joly (of Trigger Happy TV fame) and Rufus Hound (from Argumental on Dave TV) into a car to see what they'd get up to on such a long journey. Predictably, it wasn't your usual road trip and it gave us enough content to make three films - enjoy!

Trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spPGgc68d1c

Part One - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TladBhIScB4

Part Two - http://www.youtube.com/user/volvocarsuk#p/a/u/0/6Qej4juhFU0

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Marlow to Milan, on one tank of fuel

So exactly how far can you travel on one tank of fuel? This was the question posed a couple of months ago when first thinking about how to launch Volvo's new DRIVe range of environmental large cars. A large car with a small 1.6-litre diesel engine. That won't work, surely!

Well, the UK's first motoring writers to try the car seem to have decided that it's not actually an oxymoron after all. Settling off from Marlow at 9:00am yesterday morning, the six cars were driven in an economical yet spirited way across France, arriving at the overnight stop in Metz in fine form.

The challenge of seeing if the car could actually make it to Milan seemed to have griped them. Once they realised that it would probably do it, the secondary challenge of how many miles could remain on the range by the time they reached Milan took over. Cloak and Dagger prevailed, with questions of who had what range remaining dominating conversation.

As I write, the first car is approximately 60 miles from Milan and after about 740 miles, is still showing 160 miles remaining, indicating a possible 900 mile range. In a car the size of a Volvo S80, that'd have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

We'll be making a video of the journey with two well-known comedians so call back soon to follow their exploits.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What to do next?

I know that it's wrong to start with an apology but I've not been able to post for what seems like ages, so sorry - there, said it.

I'm brought back to the blog by an experience last night that I've never faced before and will probably never face again. It's not to do with Social Media and only loosely connected to Volvo, but I feel duty bound to share it.

I was at a presentation to a group of customers at a dealership, having been asked to deliver a 20-minute presentation on Volvo's PR and Social media strategy. There I was, in full flow, and just coming to the finale when.......

A lady in the front row fainted!!

Now, what do you do? How do you deal with that? I've read all sorts of books about presentation techniques, and what to do if you think your loosing your audience, how to enliven the delivery etc, but never what to do if somebody passes out straight in front of you.

Fortunately the young lady made a quick and full recovery but it did leave me as the presenter questioning what I'd done, whether she'd been thoroughly bored and decided that being comatose was a better option. I don't know. All I do know is that this is one eventuality that needs to be added to "How to..." manual!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Introducing the new Volvo C70

At its launch in early 2006, the Volvo C70 broke new ground as the world's first four seater convertible with a retractable hard top. More than three years on, the new Volvo C70 coupe/convertible is set to break new ground with a refreshed design to give the car a new look, roof up or down. The new C70 retains the three-piece retractable roof, spacious seating for four adults and class-leading convertible safety standards as the outgoing model.

New front view
The front of the new C70 takes inspiration from the S60 Concept that was unveiled in early 2009, thereby making the C70 more closely aligned with the design language of the larger cars in the Volvo range.

The refresh extends beyond plastic components as the front wings have been redesigned to give the nose a more distinct wedge-shape. There are new headlamps which now have a more pronounced upward orientation, whilst more detail has been added around the fog lamps and the lower grille.

From the front, the bonnet and grille form an open, inviting "V" shape, whilst the enlarged iron mark and the new, larger air intakes reinforce a strong on-the-road stance.
To offer even more road presence a dramatic Flamenco Red Pearl colour has been introduced.

New rear design
The rear of the car continues the front's new bold design. High-tech LED lamps, as found on the XC60, are the most noticeable addition to the rear and the entire lamp unit is now clearly integrated with the oval that frames the new C70's rear panel.
Into the car

The interior has also been given a refresh to create a more comfortable and luxury feel. The instrument panel has been redesigned to give it a wider, sleeker look with improved finish. The surface of the panel has a new texture that enhances the quality feel.
To further enhance comfort levels, the seats have been upholstered in a new, softer hide offering all occupants a greater level of comfort.

The new Volvo C70 in detail
The Volvo C70 transforms smoothly from a coupe into an open convertible in just 30 seconds. At the press of a button, the three-part steel roof folds quickly and silently away, disappearing neatly into the boot.

It has also been engineered as one of the safest convertibles on the market with regard to both preventative and protective safety. The car has an advanced body structure and several solutions that are unique to convertible cars and the lack of a fixed roof has been compensated by structural reinforcements.

Protection in roll-over accidents
The Volvo C70 features sturdy metal roll bars that extend up behind the rear seat passengers to create added protective space should the car roll over. These bars, which are part of Volvo's Rollover Protection System - ROPS - are activated by a gyro-sensor. Since the Volvo C70 has a glass rear window, the bars force through the glass if the roof is in place and so have been fitted with small hardened metal spikes that break the glass to guarantee protection.
Door-mounted inflatable curtain

One important part of the side-impact and rollover protection is the inflatable curtain, IC, which is installed in the doors as there is no roof rail to fit it to. The curtain has an extra-stiff design so the curtain can remain upright and help protect the head effectively even if the window is open. The curtain also deflates slowly, helping to provide added protection should the car roll over.
Side-impact airbags and safety belt pre-tensioners for all seats.

In addition to the inflatable curtains on either side, the front seat occupants also have side-impact airbags. The size of these bags is dimensioned to protect both the chest and hips. The IC interacts with the belt pre-tensioners to offer the best possible protection for front seat occupants in the event of an accident. All four seats come with safety belt pre-tensioners.

Further pricing and specification details
Full details, including prices and specification, of the new Volvo C70, will be released closer to the on-sale date. First C70s are expected to be in showrooms and delivered to customers in early 2010.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

When Social Media feeds the traditional world

Those of you who follow this blog will have been following Volvo's Emission Equality London Congestion Charge campaign. In essence, Volvo has challenged The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to review the basis on which exemptions are made in his Congestion Charge for hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles.

And just the other day, success was achieved when he agreed that vehicle technology had progressed since the Congestion Charge was initiated in 2003, and that he would review the exemption and report before the year end.

Obviously I'm pleased by the result. However, I've also been fascinated by the way in which a social media campaign has gained traction in the traditional media world. Apart from two press releases sent out to the motoring media, the campaign has been conducted entirely socially using Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Emissions-Equality/119945287541 and Twitter - http://twitter.com/eequality. And although it's taken a few weeks, these groups have grown and as a result, have come onto the radar of traditional journalists. First yesterday in The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/aug/04/congestion-charge-cars and then finally to the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8185706.stm.

Just goes to show that both worlds feed off one another and why a Social Media campaign needs to be considered as a part of a broader communications strategy rather than a media in isolation

Monday, August 3, 2009

Volvo Car UK succeeds in its Congestion Charge challenge to the Mayor of London

- The Mayor of London has agreed to review the exemption for alternative fuel vehicles.
- The public have spoken - only one third of motorists believe that the current exemption is fair.

Following its challenge to The Mayor of London, Volvo Car UK has been successful in its bid to review the current Congestion Charge alternative fuel exemption that, Volvo believes, unfairly biases hybrid cars over other low-emitting vehicles.

In his response to the campaign, The Mayor confirmed that the exemption to the Congestion Charge was introduced to incentivise the take-up of more environmentally-friendly vehicles but that he recognised that vehicle technology has developed considerably since then. Transport for London will report their recommendations by the end of the year.

The news comes at the same time as a What Car? poll confirms that the motoring public also believe that the current hybrid and electric car exemption is outdated and unfair.

In the poll, conducted on the homepage of WhatCar.com, 50 per cent of over 1,500 respondents confirmed that they believed that any exemption should be CO2 based while only 34 per cent believed that the status quo, where all hybrid or electric cars are exempt, is fair.

If this view were to be enacted, drivers of Volvo's C30, S40 and V50 DRIVe cars featuring Start / Stop technology would be able to travel around the country's capital free of charge.

Last month, Stuart Kerr, Regional President for Europe from Volvo Car Corporation wrote to The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, highlighting the disparity between the treatment of hybrid and conventional internal combustion-engined cars. In essence, drivers of hybrid cars enter the zone free of charge on a daily basis while drivers of low emission cars powered by conventional internal combustion engines with the same, or even lower, levels of emissions are charged £8.00 per day. This 'tax' could add a financial burden of over £2,000 per year to those drivers who have selected a traditionally-powered low emission car.

Since the original letter was sent, the Emission Equality campaign has attracted hundreds of supporters on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Emissions-Equality/119945287541), Twitter, (http://twitter.com/eequality) and Volvo Car UK's own website (http://www.volvocars.com/uk/Pages/Emissions_Equality.aspx).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Emission Equality Congestion Charge campaign success

Hot on the heels of the What Car? poll that lets drivers decide on what they'd like any future Congestion Charge exemptions to be, we've heard from The Mayor. Well sort of....

In a response in the London Assembly to a question posed by Mike Tuffrey about Volvo's challenge, The Mayor confirmed "I have already asked TfL to undertake a full review of Congestion Charging discounts and exemptions, and they will be reporting to me on this later in the year. I have also responded to Volvo to that effect. It is appropriate to keep the criteria for Congestion Charging under review and consider the effects of changes in vehicle technology, as well as the range of other calls for changes to the discounts and exemptions available. I will consider this matter fully when I have the results of TfL’s review later this year."

Now technically The Mayor is telling a bit of a porky because we haven't yet received a response and have sent a follow up letter today requesting one. However, the fact that he has asked TfL to fully review the basis on which Congestion Charge exemptions are applied is excellent news, and to be welcomed.

It'll be very interesting to see what they come up with, but rest assured we'll keep lobbying so that logic and sanity prevails, unlike when the Charge was set up!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Have your say on the Congestion Charge.

If you've been following Volvo's Congestion Charge campaign, you'll know that we've been lobbying The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to review the charging model of the London Congestion Charge. Put simply, if you drive a hybrid-powered car into London, irrespective of its emissions, it's free of charge. However, if you drive an equivilent-emitting conventional internal combustion engined car into the the capital, it'll cost the driver £8.00. And we think that that pricing model is outdated and simply unfair.

What Car? have been supporters of the cause since the outset and now they've given you the chance to register your thoughts on what the charge should be by hosting a poll on their home page. Have your say - http://www.whatcar.com/

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Volvo performance for road and track

In conjunction with participation at the Brands Hatch round of the WTCC this weekend, Volvo Car UK and Polestar Racing AB have announced a new range of performance upgrades for Volvo road cars.

A collaboration between Volvo’s Racing Team, Polestar, and Volvo Car Corporation’s power train department has produced ‘Polestar Performance’ - bespoke software that enhances vehicle performance. The software upgrade will be available from Volvo’s UK dealer network and complies with EU emission regulations.

The performance upgrades will be made available on 1 August for the popular D5 185 PS engine fitted to the Volvo V70, XC70 and S801, while the XC90 will be available later this year. The engine control system upgrades offer a power increase of 20 horsepower to 205 PS, without affecting the car’s fuel consumption in normal driving. After optimisation, the acceleration of the car improves on average by 0.5 seconds in both manual and Geartronic transmissions. Naturally, the car will also comply with the strict emissions regulations stipulated by EU legislation. Prices for the upgrade are £650 including VAT.

More importantly, all warranties from Volvo will apply. None of Polestar’s power optimisation kits increase the car’s top speed. As a result, standard brakes and tyres can be used.

The upgrades are being launched to coincide with the Volvo/Polestar Racing team’s appearance in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at Brands Hatch this weekend.

The team is currently lying in second place in the Swedish Touring Car Series with two ethanol-powered Volvo C30 DRIVe race cars. This weekend, drivers Robert Dahlgren and Tommy Rustad will travel to Brands Hatch to test their skills against the world’s best touring car drivers, during a one-off appearance at the latest round of the WTCC.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

50 years of safety innovation

Sitting on a train on the way to London. Not a normal commute this one though.

Today is Volvo's opportunity to present our safety credentials and heritage to a select number of key infleuncers. This morning will be spent in the Houses of Parliament presenting to a group of MPs, Ministers and Lords on the importance of a number of Volvo's safety innovations including one that has saved over one million lives. More details to follow on 13 August - the 50th birthday of the innovation.

The evening will be spent with some of the most influential motoring journalists on the same mission, but in very different surroundings - the top floor of The Gherkin - one of the best views of the capital.

But, bearing in mind our current Congestion Charge campaign, it'll also be really interesting to count the number of hybrid cars on the roads that are exempt from the charge compared the rapidly increasing number of other low emission cars, such as Volvo's DRIVe models, whose drivers currently have to cough up £8.00 for the priviledge.

So, Volvo cares about safety and the environment - just like it's always been.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Still no response from The Mayor

If you're a regular visitor to Torque Talking, you'll have seen that Volvo Car UK has launched a campaign requesting that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, revisits and reviews the grounds on which hybrid cars entering London do so free-of-charge while cars that emit the same levels of CO2 are charged £8.00.

And we seem to have hit on something that the vast majority of people agree is unfair and outdated. Since the campaign launched 10 days ago, we've already had hundreds of people either following us on Facebook, Twitter or signed up on the Volvo.co.uk website which is fantastic. However, there is one notable absentee from the ever lengthening list. The Mayor.

The initial letter was sent to his City Hall office and his Head of PR on June 22nd and we gave him a week to formulate a response. Nothing. When we launched the campaign, I expected a response, assuming that even if they hadn't received the letter (you know what the Post Office is like without partial privatisation!!), at least his PR team who surely monitor the internet for him would have picked it up. Still nothing.

Which leads me to one conclusion. Either the postman doesn't deliver to City Hall (which he does), or City Hall doesn't monitor said what's said about The Mayor online (which they must) or that he's so embarrassed by the status quo that he doesn't know what to say. I know which one I believe.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A bit of background to Volvo's Congestion Charge campaign

This issue has been rumbling around for awhile within Volvo Car UK, mainly because this is a business that believes in fairness and equality. The fact that you can travel into London in a hybrid car free of charge yet are charged £8.00 to travel in an alternative low emission car just seemed unfair and out of date.

When London's congestion charge was launched in 2003, it contained exemptions for 'alternative fuel' vehicles. Very little is mentioned in the legislation about why but the assumption has to be that, at the time, these were the only viable low emission cars.

The fact that The Mayor offers an exemption for such cars surely calls into doubt whether it's a congestion charge at all? Surely, by definition, a congestion charge would charge more for the more congestion you create? But no. The driver of a MINI and the driver of one of those ghastly stretched Hummers transporting loads of screaming hen-night goers are charged the same. You could get three or four MINIs in the same space so to call it a congestion charge isn't credible.

And on the basis that The Mayor is offering a discount to low-emission hybrids, it must be an emission charge. And if it's an emission charge, isn't it fair and reasonable to expect drivers of similar emission cars to pay the same? Even more, isn't it crazy that drivers of larger hybrids emitting over 200g/km of CO2 travel free while cars emitting half as much are charged £8.00?

And the campaign was born. Where it goes, who knows? However, there's a saying that you should only fight the battles you can win. What I do know is that for a business who believes in fairness and equality, this just feels like a fight worth having.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The campaign ball's rolling

Well, we're 24 hours in and I didn't really know what to expect, but we certainly seem to have struck a chord with the public and media mood. Checking out Google this morning under the search 'Volvo cars' and reference to the campaign was the 4th highest ranking story. Searching 'Congestion charge' delivered a similiar result.

The dynamics that sit behind a Google search are still a mystery to me but what I do know is that a result like that doesn't happen by accident. Lots of influential people are talking and writing about it, and reading it.

And the snowball should just keep rolling. Articles like this - http://www.carsuk.net/volvo-gunning-for-boris-over-london-congestion-charge/ - show me that we weren't the first to think about this, just the first to do something about it.

So if you haven't already, sign up at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Emissions-Equality/119945287541 or http://twitter.com/eequality or www.volvo.co.uk and show your support for righting the wrong and achieving Emission Equality.

Volvo Car UK challenges The Mayor of London to Emissions Equality

Late yesterday afternoon, Volvo Car UK challenged the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to review the basis of charging for the London Congestion Charging zone.

We believe that the principle of hybrid cars being exempt from the Congestion Charge is now outdated and unfair. Drivers of hybrid cars enter the zone free of charge on a daily basis while drivers of low emission cars powered by conventional internal combustion engines with the same, or even lower, levels of emissions are charged £8.00 per day. This could add a financial burden of over £2,000 per year to those drivers who have selected a traditionally-powered low emission car.

The apparent disparity was highlighted to Boris Johnson by the Regional President for Europe from Volvo Car Corporation when he collected the What Car? Green Car of the Year award from The Mayor recently. This was followed up by a letter to The Mayor's office on 22 June.

What Car? has joined the campaign, and you can too by registering support at www.volvocars.co.uk/emissionsequality . Using the power of Social Media, you can also follow the cause on http://twitter.com/eequality or befriend the campaign at www.facebook.com/pages/Emissions-Equality/119945287541

Monday, June 29, 2009

Reporting from Sweden

Currently in Sweden at the Volvo DRIVe launch. Journalists are driving C30, S40 and V50 cars with new Start / Stop technology, XC60 and XC70 DRIVe with the 2.4d engine and 2WD as well as the V70 DRIVe with the 1.6D engine.

And this is the car that most came to drive. Could such a large car really drive well with a small engine. Yes appears to be the answer. Eight of the UK's best motoring journalists seem convinced, but needed to drive the car to convince themselves.

Few cars nowadays are sold before they are launched. Some customers will buy some cars after they get announced because they know what it'll deliver. And some cars need to be driven before orders are placed. I believe that the V70 DRIVe falls into this category. But once they drive it, it all makes sense. So, a large car can be frugal, emit less than 130g/km and drive well. This could be the future of many people's motoring.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Now I understand Twitter

Like many people, I've been trying many different things in the New Media world, trying to understand how, and why, they work. And there is a easy comparison to make between the worlds of social media and alternative fuels in cars. If we could look forward 5 or 10 years from now, we'd understand which technology, or technologies, would win through, and we'd all be backing that horse. However, for now, we haven't yet invented the time machine so we are all stuck trying to work out which road to take.

And one of those avenues is Twitter. I've been Tweating for some time now, but never really understood why. Why would anybody care about what I'm doing now. Yes, in a personal context, your friends might be interested but in a broader, work-based environment, who cares? I have enough trouble keeping up with my own life rather than worrying about what's going on in the minute-by-minute minutiae of their lives.

But the eureka moment arrived this week. Social Media guru Carolyn Watt from Volvo's Social Media agency, Mindshare suggested I don't think about it as an insight into follower's lives, more like an alternative, and more democratic, version of Google.

And in those few intervening days, it's become an invaluable assset. Ask Twitter a question, and all of your followers respond with the answer. Not a computer-generated answer from Google who's supporters in the background have paid a bob or two for Google to provide the answer, but an answer from friends or colleagues who's input you truly value. Now I get it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Volvo competes in the Round the Island sailing race

Spent the weekend with a group of motoring journalists competing in the Round the Island sailing race. Organised by the Island Sailing Club on the Isle of Wight, the annual event attracts 1,800 yachts of all shapes and sizes.

And this year was no different. With serious 100ft racing yachts through to 25ft pleasure sailing boats, it's an event for all comers and the spectacle of all those boats on the Solent is a sight that has to be seen to be believed.

Volvo UK borrowed the experience of two Volvo Team for Life Olympic sailors to ensure that our two inexperienced journalist crews would at least get off the start line. Oh, and we were helped by half the normal crew who certainly knew a thing or two about sailing!

So, at 7:30am, our two 52ft racing yachts set off in the 60 nautical mile race. Volvo Team 2 played a blinder and shot off towards the Needles. On the far side of the Island, Volvo Team 1 came back into the game and passed around Ventnor. And so it stayed until the finish line.

While Team 1 celebrated, Team 2 knew those celebrations were in vain because the handicap system worked on the side of Team 2. In the IRC Gp 0 class that we were all competing in, Volvo Team 2 came in sixth in class and Team 1 came in 17th, out of a class of 45.

A fantastic result, even if I do say so myself, and made all the better when you consider that both boats, that were half crewed by absolute novices, actually crossed the finish line as the sixth and the ninth mono-hull boat home.

All aboard for 2010?

In the final tally,

Friday, June 19, 2009

Towcar awards adds to Volvo's tally

The Volvo XC60 crossover has beaten 38 rival vehicles to take the coveted Overall Winner title at the Towcar Awards 2009.

The five-door crossover’s towcar talents were examined at the MIRA vehicle testing facility in Warwickshire, where its exceptional performance left judges in no doubt that it was not just the best vehicle in its class (1900kg+ kerb weight), it was also the best towcar overall.

Better still, two new diesel engines that deliver even more power and even lower emissions have since been introduced to the Volvo XC60 model range. A new 2.4D lower-CO2 emitting DRIVe version cuts CO2 output from 199g/km to 159g/km while boosting power to 175PS. Meanwhile, D5 variants now benefit from a 20PS power increase to 205PS and a reduction in emissions to 183g/km.

David Motton, Contributing Editor at Practical Caravan Magazine and head judge at the Towcar Awards, said: “Many cars made our judges sit up and take notice, but one stood out above all others: the Volvo XC60. Great to look at, great to travel in and tow with, the Volvo just had to win.

"Already a winner at the What Car? Car of the Year Awards 2009, it's a winner as a towcar, too. Stylish, stable and practical - what more do you want?"

The Towcar Awards 2009 is run jointly by Practical Caravan Magazine, What Car? and the Camping & Caravan Club and winners’ trophies were presented during a special ceremony at Woburn Abbey this week.

Testing was divided into categories, with each vehicle being marked on its towing ability, practicality and cost of ownership (purchase price, running costs and resale values). On-the-road assessments included measuring vehicle stability, hill starts (for handbrake strength and traction), acceleration and braking tests.

Judges said the Volvo XC60 D5 SE Geartronic model’s all-round talents meant it scored higher during the vehicle trials than any of its rivals, which included the Audi Q5, Jaguar XF, Skoda Superb, Jeep Cherokee and Vauxhall Insignia.

Peter Rask, managing director at Volvo Car UK, said: “This is fantastic news for Volvo and yet another endorsement for the XC60’s many talents.

“Volvo has a strong track record in delivering award-winning towing vehicles so it’s great to see the latest XC60 model continuing that proud tradition.”

The Volvo XC60 is priced from £24,995 for the entry level 2.4D DRIVe S model and features City Safety as standard. The technology uses radar to monitor traffic up to six metres in front of the vehicle. The system automatically applies the brakes to avoid or reduce the effects of an accident if it detects a collision is imminent and the driver hasn't reacted.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Car? Green Car of the Year - the movie

Even though the fun and frivolity of Monday night has now subsided, the serious message behind Volvo's success is only just starting to be amplified, with colleagues all around the world starting to talk to their customers about this significant award.

And if you didn't have the benefit of being at the award ceremony to see the Mayor of London handover the award, and hear the thoughts of the recipients as well as the Editor of What Car? Steve Fowler, follow the link to our new YouTube channel to watch and listen.

Enjoy!

http://tinyurl.com/nvfeql

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Volvo S40 DRIVe awarded What Car? Green Car of the Year

In my recent blog post http://torquetalking.blogspot.com/2009/06/volvo-car-uk-takes-first-social-media.html I eluded to some big news for the Volvo brand happening last night. Well, those avid web watchers will now know that last night, at an event hosted by the What Car? editorial team and The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, the Volvo S40 DRIVe was awarded their coverted Green Car of the Year title.

Sorry not to have brought you the news at 20:00 last night as promised but I was out celebrating.

But I'm also really pleased that we've also taken our first steps into the Social Media world in the process. When such a fantastic opportunity presents itself, you make the most of it. So we've got both a traditional PR campaign and Social Media campaign now running and in a few days, we'll compare and contrast the results to see how the coverage has come in.

They're under starters orders, and they're off......

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Making the most of every PR opportunity

Off tomorrow to an event that we've devised called Learn to Sail. Essentially, we've gathered a group of motoring journalists together with very different sailing experiences and we're going to teach them to sail, or hone their existing sailing skills. But not with just any teachers, with our own Volvo Team for Life Olympic sailors.

And here's the rub. Anecdotally, you hear of all sorts of PR teams retrenching in these difficult economic times and going back to basics. Some are doing the absolute bare minimum just to survive. This must be a very unpleasant place to find yourself, and it must be very difficult not to know which way to turn to continue generating coverage and building relationships.

But over the fence, some PRs might find that their Marketing Departments who, let's be honest, always have considerably bigger budgets than PR ever will, will still be building brand alliances and sponsorship relationships that can be leveraged. These linked PR and Marketing events need not be expensive or overly-elaborate but they can show a very different side to a company than what's been seen previously. And at a time when most people are wondering how they're going to do what they want to do with less and less resources, at least it shows that the company is still keen to foster new relationships and spread their PR wings further.

And that, to mind, has to be a good thing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blog analysis made easy

Like me, I'm sure anybody new to the world of blogging is interested to understand who is reading your views. After all, why should anybody care about what I think? But you know what, they do, and in their droves. They would care about what you think, and in their droves too.

So, a word from the wise - get yourself a simple-to-use site analysis tool as soon as you get going and watch the audience develop. They're available free of charge on the internet and really help you understand who's reading what you're writing, for how long, and where they've come from. This can help influence what you write and when and how you write it. And the snowball continues rolling.

I've chosen the curiously-named 'Get Clicky' site, but could have chosen from a plethora of others. It's really simple to use and starts delivering results instantly, which is why you need to do it sooner rather than later. And if I were a betting man, I'd wager a small amount that you'd soon become fixated watching your ever-increasing audience numbers………. like I have!!

Volvo Car UK takes first Social Media steps

The world is changing at Volvo. Ask the 'man in the street' what comes to mind when he thinks about Volvo and, like any brand, you'll get a diversity of answers. However, the responses for Volvo are changing. Fewer and fewer respondents would talk about large estate cars and 'a car my Dad had'. More and more, the Volvo brand is being associated with cutting-edge design, an environmental conscience and innovative safety. Don't just take the PR man's word for it, I've got the proof if needed!

And along with this change in perception comes an opportunity to reach out to a changing audience. Previously on my blog, you'll have read how Volvo has employed the services of Mindshare to assist us with the task of Social Media and Digital PR

http://torquetalking.blogspot.com/2009/04/new-media-news.html

And that decision caused a bit of a stir –

http://torquetalking.blogspot.com/2009/05/right-to-reply-media-agencies-muscle-in.html

Well, now the dust has settled, we are ready to embark on the journey. Like any business that takes the first steps into this new world, the advances need to be small and measured in the first instance to prove you're doing the right thing and taking others with you. After all, setting off in the wrong direction could spell disaster, and you'd spend time and money just getting back to where you started.

But where to start? The opportunity to make a bit of a splash in this new world seems like a good starting point, as does the ability, with this splash, to monitor the reaction and compare and contrast the reaction to that of the traditional media world that we're all familiar with.

So, keep a look out at 20:00 next Monday 8 June 2009 for an announcement that, I believe, reinforces the reasons why the perceptions of Volvo are changing. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Volvo and Vattenfall - a Plug-in Hybrid future.

I've followed the announcements between Volvo Car Corporation and Vattenfall made in Stockholm earlier today with great interest. In summary, it's an industrial joint venture between the two companies to develop plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by 2012, with some evaluation cars running during summer 2009.

But this short summary doesn't in any way convey the significance of the announcement. Volvo's DRIVe cars are currently emitting as little as 104g/km which, for those non-petrol heads out there, isn't a great deal. These Plug-in Hybrid cars, when they arrive in only a few years from now, will emit less than 50 grams per kilometre. No car currently gets anywhere near these levels at the moment, or is appearing to any time soon.

So, the lowest levels of CO2. Twin this with the recent UK government announcement regarding discounts on Plug-in Hybrid cars of up to £5,000 from 2011, it's good news all round. Especially as almost seven million car buyers in the UK would consider buying an electric car in the next five years, according to a survey by the RAC Foundation. That's one in five British car buyers.

The director of the RAC Foundation, Professor Stephen Glaister, said: 'What the Government is in danger of doing is putting the cart before the horse. It is actively promoting the purchase of electric vehicles long before there is any chance of manufacturers making them widely available.' The RAC Foundation points to the Governments own prediction that electric vehicles won’t be available on the mass market until 2017. Well Mr Glaister, look no further than Volvo - we'll have had cars on the market for at least five years by then.

For more detailed information on the announcements, visit - www.media.volvocars.com.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A new model year, a raft of enhancements from Volvo

A new model, new engines and new engine technologies are the key additions to the Volvo range for the 2010 model year, all of which offer enhanced drivability, lower CO2 emissions and improved fuel consumption.

Start/Stop technology for C30, S40 and V50 offers CO2 emissions of just 104 g/km
XC60 and XC70 2.4D front-wheel-drive emit 159 g/km CO2
Introduction of the new Volvo S80 executive saloon to the Volvo range
New D5 and 2.4D available in XC60, XC70, V70 and S80

Volvo C30, S40 and V50
The Volvo C30 SportsCoupe, S40 saloon and V50 Sportswagon DRIVe models now all feature the intelligent new Start/Stop function which brings CO2 emissions down to 104 g/km and improves fuel consumption up to 72.4 mpg. The sports-inspired R-DESIGN specification and body styling has also been introduced to the DRIVe range offering CO2 emissions of 119 g/km and up to 62.8 mpg in all three models.

Prices for the C30 range start at £14,995 OTR for the entry level 1.6 S. The 1.6D DRIVe with Start/Stop variants start at £15,745. The S40 and V50 ranges start at £14,745 and £16,495 OTR for the 1.6 S models with the DRIVe with Start/Stop range commencing at £17,495 for the S40 and £18,845 for the V50.

Volvo XC60
A new front-wheel-drive variant of the Volvo XC60 is now available with the upgraded 2.4D 175 PS engine. This combination with a manual transmission reduces CO2 emissions to 159 g/km and is badged DRIVe. In addition to the lower CO2 emissions, fuel economy is also dramatically improved; from 37.7 mpg (combined) to 47.1 mpg, a 25% improvement. The new D5 engine is also now available in the XC60 offering up to an 11% increase in performance and an 8% reduction in CO2 emissions to 183 g/km.

Prices for the XC60 range start at £24,995 for the 2.4D DRIVe S model, with the new D5 engine joining the range at £26,745.

Volvo XC70
The Volvo XC70 benefits from the two new diesel engines - 2.4D and D5 - which join the range in SE specification and cost £27,995 and £31,495 OTR respectively. The 2.4D engine will only be available with front-wheel-drive and models with manual transmission feature CO2 emissions of just 159 g/km and will be badged DRIVe. It will also benefit from improved fuel consumption of up to 47.1 mpg.

Other changes to the XC70 range include a new front grille displaying the large iron mark and new steering wheel chrome highlights and chrome trim around the ignition area. Cars with the D5 and T6 AWD engines will also have visible twin rear exhaust pipes as standard.

The new Volvo S80
As announced on 26 February 2009, the Volvo S80 has benefitted from a full re-fresh this model year, both externally and internally.

The driving dynamics and ride of the new Volvo S80 have also been updated and improved by the introduction of two new chassis - the Lowered Dynamic Chassis and the Comfort Chassis. The Lowered Dynamic Chassis has been developed to offer drivers enhanced sporting driving characteristics and more responsive handling, while the Comfort Chassis offers a compliant and un-interrupted smooth ride. The introduction of these new chassis' gives customers the opportunity to tailor their S80 to suit their driving style - for inspired, enthusiastic driving or relaxed comfort.

The Lowered Dynamic Chassis will be offered as standard on the SE and SE Lux models. The Comfort Chassis will be the only chassis available on the Executive trim level.

The new Volvo S80 will also feature three new diesel engines, the 2.4D, D5 and the low CO2-emitting DRIVe. As well as providing the Volvo S80 with a different driving experience, the car will also benefit from lower fuel consumption and fewer emissions. An upgraded 2.5T is available, offering a 31 PS performance boost to provide 231 PS and 340 Nm of torque. Despite this 13% increase in power, CO2 emissions have been reduced to 206 g/km and fuel consumption improved to 32.8 mpg with the manual transmission.

A new R-DESIGN Interior Pack has been introduced which includes Dynamic Sports leather faced front seats, R-DESIGN leather sports steering wheel and gearknob, instrument dials, aluminium pedals and sports floor mats. The pack is available on SE Premium and SE Lux premium models and is priced at £500.

Prices for the new Volvo S80 range start at £21,745 for the new low-CO2 emitting DRIVe SE model. The new 2.4D starts at £25,845 in SE specification, while the D5 joins the range at £27,745.

Volvo V70
The Volvo V70 gains the two new diesel engines with prices for the 2.4D starting at £26,845 OTR and £28,745 for the D5 both in SE trim. Changes to the V70 range also include a new front grille displaying the large iron mark and new steering wheel chrome highlights in SE and SE Lux and chrome trim around the ignition area. Cars with the D5 and T6 AWD engines now have visible twin rear exhaust pipes as standard.

The 2.5T engine has been updated to offer a performance boost to 231 PS and 340 Nm of torque. Despite this 13% increase in power the CO2 emissions have been reduced to 209 g/km and fuel consumption improved to 32.1 mpg with the manual transmission.
Prices for the Volvo V70 range start at £22,745 for the new low-CO2 emitting DRIVe model.

Volvo C70
The 2.0D engine in the C70 has been updated to offer CO2 emissions of 158 g/km to enable the car to fall below the 160 g/km threshold for the Capital Write Down Allowance. The Volvo C70 range starts at £24,995 OTR for the 2.0D S model.

Volvo XC90
Volvo's seven-seat XC90 receives a new, lighter chassis and new dampers designed to improve drivability. In spite of this new chassis there are no price rises for the XC90. The range starting price remains static at £29,995 OTR for the D5 Active model, while prices for the flagship Executive variant have been reduced for the 2010 Model Year. The Executive now starts at £42,985 OTR for the 3.2-litre petrol model, a decrease of over £4,000 with minimal specification changes.

New D5 and 2.4D engines
The Volvo S80, V70, XC70 and XC60 all benefit from the new and improved D5 and 2.4D diesel engines which were announced earlier this year3. The new D5 engine with its twin sequential turbo charging offers a 20 PS performance boost to provide 205 PS and 420 NM of torque. Despite this power increase, CO2 emissions have been cut to 169 g/km in the XC70 and V70, 183 g/km in the XC60, while the S80 offers 164 g/km.

The 2.4D has also been upgraded and the new engine offers a 12 percent improvement in performance to 175 PS and 420 Nm of torque whilst bringing down CO2 levels to 155 g/km in the S80 and 159 g/km in the V70. In the XC60 and XC70 the 2.4D coincides with the introduction of front-wheel-drive and together, they reduce emissions to just 159 g/km. Crucially, this figure enables these two models to fall below the 160 g/km threshold for the Capital Write Down Allowance.

New Premium Pack and updated Satellite Navigation system
Volvo is offering the ultimate upgrade with an additional Premium Pack specification on all trim levels and engines in XC60, V70, XC70, S80, XC90 models for an extra £2,000. The Premium Pack includes the addition of Leather-faced Upholstery and Satellite Navigation System (RTI) in the XC60, V70 and XC70. On the XC90 the Premium model adds Satellite Navigation System (RTI), Dual Band Integrated GSM Telephone and Volvo On Call. Meanwhile the C70 also gets a Premium Pack for an extra £1,800 and features Satellite Navigation System (RTI), Bluetooth Handsfree System and Keyless Drive. The Premium Packs are designed to complement the existing high levels of specification on whichever engine or trim level chosen.

An updated Satellite Navigation system (RTI) has also been introduced in the XC60, V70, XC70, S80 and XC90 to bring them in line with the smaller cars in the Volvo range. A new driver interface, new colours and an improved premium feel to the menu and symbols are the key features and the unit costs £1,950 (including VAT).

All new MY'10 models are available to order now with first customer cars expected in July.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Driving the Volvo S60 Concept - virtually.

Volvo is giving an insight into the driving characteristics of the Volvo S60 Concept with the release of an innovative new PC-based racing challenge called Volvo - The Game. Available to download for free now from www.volvocars.co.uk/S60concept, it features five of Volvo's racing legends as well as the new Volvo S60 Concept. The game has been developed between Volvo Car Corporation and multiple award-winning Swedish game studio, the SimBin Development Team.

The six cars include the new Volvo S60 Concept, the Volvo C30 currently competing in the STCC (Swedish Touring Car Championship), the previous Volvo S60 that competed in the STCC, the Volvo S40 that notched up many notable successes in the BTCC (British Touring Car Championship), the Volvo 850 - the estate car that became a legend in the BTCC - and finally a true racing classic from the past, a Volvo 240 Turbo Group A.

Players select their favourite Volvo to test their skills on one of the two highly authentic tracks. The two tracks are the Gothenburg Eco Drive Arena in Sweden and Chayka outside Kiev in the Ukraine. Volvo - The Game is the only virtual racing game in the world to feature the Ukrainian racing track.

Volvo - The Game in detail
A team of 15-20 people worked together to create Volvo - The Game with the aim of making it as realistic as possible. The game developers have invested tens of thousands of hours in getting all the details exactly right. Just "building" a car for a racing game takes about one month.
As is the case with the real cars, the six cars in this game each have different driving characteristics. The classic Volvo 240 Turbo Group A, for instance, handles very differently when compared with the latest newcomer, the Volvo S60 Concept. In order to recreate the older cars' interiors as authentically as possible, the designers visited the Volvo Museum to study the former racing legends.

To add further authenticity, game engineers also pulled one of the race cars out of hibernation and gave it a thorough full-speed workout, recording the engine sound straight from the racing track.

The two racing tracks have been reproduced with detail and immense precision. It takes about 1000 hours to create a virtual racing track. Even the kerbs are exactly the same height as the real track.

Volvo - The Game can be played with a steering wheel and pedals connected to the computer. It is also possible to operate the car via the PC's keyboard or with a game-pad. The game offers a choice of skill levels: "novice" with all the driver assistance technology activated such as ABS brakes, the next level up is "semi-pro", and finally "pro" where there is no assistance whatsoever.

Another good reason to buy a Volvo XC90

At a time when large 4x4 aren't topping the sales charts, it's good to see that nice Mr. Clarkson still understands and appreciates the reasons why so many buyers actually need one. In last weekend's Sunday Times InGear section, he was appraising the new Audi Q7 and commented, "I am no fan of the Audi Q7. It is bread-bin ugly and despite its enormous size it’s so small inside that you are faced with a simple choice. Leave the dogs at home. Or the kids. Unlike a Volvo XC90, it cannot do both."

Clearly my colleagues from Audi may not be so pleased by his comments. Never mind, eh.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/driving/jeremy_clarkson/article6342920.ece?token=null&offset=12&page=2

To see his full review of the XC90 from January, click here - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/driving/jeremy_clarkson/article5531208.ece

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yet more awards for Volvo XC60

The Volvo XC60 crossover has been named ‘SUV of the Year' at the 2009 Fleet World Honours. This is Volvo's second consecutive appearance on the annual winners' list, after the XC60's ground-breaking City Safety won the Technology Category last year.

"This is a great achievement for Volvo and further evidence of our commitment to designing and building company cars that feature innovative technology, yet remain true to our core values of quality and safety," commented John Wallace, Corporate Sales & Leasing Manager for Volvo Car UK.

The Volvo XC60 was launched last November and, in addition to the Fleet World Honours accolade, the car was also awarded the What Car? SUV of the Year at the magazine's 2009 Awards. It fuses SUV-like toughness and practicality with coupĂ© style and driving dynamics and also features the ‘world first' new safety technology, City Safety. City Safety eliminates the possibility of crashing into the car in front at in-town speeds of up to 9 mph and lowers the risk of crashes below 19 mph, reducing injury (especially whiplash) and cutting repair costs.

The recent introduction of front-wheel drive and the new 2.4D engine to the XC60 also sees fuel consumption improve up to 47.1 mpg and CO2 emission figures tumble to 159 g/km - ensuring the model benefits from a 20 per cent Capital Allowance rate following the introduction of new rules earlier this year. The new rules result in lower whole life costs for companies, while drivers of these lower emission vehicles are rewarded with reduced Benefit in Kind (BIK) tax bills.

The Fleet World Honours are presented annually to those motor manufacturers, service companies and individuals who have, in the opinion of the judges, achieved the highest possible level of excellence in their sector.

The judging panel is chaired by industry professional George Emmerson, who has managed fleets at IBM, NHBC and Black Horse Agencies. Other members of the judging panel include Ken Rogers, John Kendall and Ross Durkin from Fleet World's editorial team, and fleet manager Jackie Pomfrett.

George said: "Based on a three-year/20,000 mile per year profile, CAP predicts the XC60 2.4D and D5 SE versions will retain 44% of cost new, while EurotaxGlass's predicts the 2.4D SE will retain 46% of its cost. A 47% residual is estimated for the D5 SE - so residuals promise to be best in sector."

Fleet World's Managing Editor Ross Durkin added: "Despite the difficult economic conditions, we had a tremendous number of entries in this year's Fleet World Honours - a sign not only of the significance of the awards themselves, but also of the tremendous level of service, innovation and competition that exist within the fleet industry today. Those who have won can be justifiably proud of their achievement."

Volvo reveals full scrappage scheme details

  • All models in the highly specified, safe and environmentally conscious Volvo range are available through the Government's Scrappage Scheme
  • Volvo Car UK goes the extra mile by giving customers an offer over-and-above the Government £1,000 contribution
  • Scrappage Scheme offers also available across Volvo's low CO2-emitting DRIVe range, including Start/Stop models, the XC60 front-wheel drive 2.4D and new S80 executive saloon

Following Volvo Car UK's confirmation of its participation in the Government's Scrappage Scheme, Volvo is pleased to announce further details of the additional support offering which will be available across all models, engines and trim levels in the range.


Customers purchasing a car through the Scrappage Scheme can benefit from the Government's £1,000 payment which Volvo will match. This £2,000, combined with extra support from Volvo, will enable customers to drive away a new Volvo C30 1.6 R-DESIGN with £3,849 off the list price.


These support offers are available across the range including all the DRIVe-badged models. Customers looking to lower their environmental impact can purchase a C30 DRIVe with Start/Stop with a contribution from the Government and Volvo Car UK totalling £4,027. The S40 DRIVe S with Start/Stop features a total saving of £4,377.


And the offers are not just available on the smaller models. Customers can drive away a new Volvo S80 DRIVe SE with a saving of £5,210 off the list price, while the Volvo XC60 2.4D DRIVe is available with a £4,640 saving. On an XC90 seven-seat SUV, that saving becomes an astonishing £6,841.


With the DRIVe cars' excellent environmental performance, the driver also benefits from other financial incentives. The C30, S40 and V50 DRIVe models with Start/Stop all qualify for £35 per annum VED band thanks to the ultra-low CO2 output of 104 g/km, while an impressive fuel consumption figure of up to 72.4 mpg on a combined cycle enables the cars to run up to 800 miles on a full tank of fuel.


The Volvo V70 and S80 DRIVe models come equipped with the 1.6-litre diesel engine with specially-tailored engine software and modified gear ratios in third, fourth and fifth. The optimised powertrain helps Volvo's larger cars significantly cut their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions up to 57.6 mpg and 129 g/km respectively (preliminary figures). The Volvo XC60 and XC70, in their new front-wheel drive guise and mated to the new 2.4D engine, offer emissions of just 159 g/km and fuel consumption up to 47.1 mpg.


Crucially, these CO2 figures enable all the Volvo DRIVe models to fall below the 160 g/km threshold for the Capital Write Down Allowance. As a result, company car drivers will benefit significantly from lower Benefit-in-Kind taxation bills. All models are also covered by Volvo's comprehensive 3 year/60,000 mile warranty.


Customers with an eligible car can visit any participating authorised Volvo dealer and the incentive payment is available on any new model in the Volvo range. Along with the extra support, Volvo proves that high specification, safety and being environmentally conscious doesn't need to break the bank.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What's in a name?

If you go back a few years, before the internet and social media had taken off, the world received all of its news-based information from journalists. And everybody interested in the news realised this – easy.

Wind the clock forwards to today and audiences have an ever-growing number of avenues to receive and digest news. The traditional routes of television, radio, newspapers and magazines still exist (although most of their audiences are in decline) but now we have to contend with internet resources like blogs, forums, boards, wikis, social media sites like Facebook and alike.

And to the 'man in the street', we need to accept that it can be confusing. What's the difference between a blog and a forum, and what should they read for what type of news? Who's important and who's not – how can they tell?

In my view, we can make it simple. If we strip out all of the titles – journalist, blogger, board reader, editor etc – and just use the word 'influencer', I believe it should make it easier. After all, all of these commentators, irrespective of the medium they are using, are creating influence in their audience. Clearly some will create more influence than others, but that's been the case.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Social Media wrestles with the traditional world

Have spent a couple of valuable days in meetings with fellow PR professionals and I'm struck by one thing - the different pace at which the power of Social Media is being recognised around the world.

In these meetings, I was eulogising about the benefits that it can bring, about the audiences that it can open you up to, about the cost effectiveness of most of it and, above all from a PR perspective, the measurability that it can add to a PR strategy. But we can't ignore the fact that there are some excellent PR professionals out there who haven't understood the power that Social Media can harness yet, and therefore see it as a possible threat or drain on already depleted resources.

With challenges like how the relationship between bloggers and journalists might work, and how they are going to find the time to respond to the deluge of customer enquires it will surely bring, it's often easiest to just think it's too hard, and not do anything at all.

But I believe that the truth is very different. I wholeheartedly believe that both Social Media and traditional media can happily co-exist together if dealt with delicately. And it doesn't need to take huge amounts of time. In fact, I believe that if the online world feeds the traditional world with stories, it could actually take less time and cost less money.

So, what to do? Do you push ahead and potentially get everybody's backs up or do nothing because of their lack of understanding? I think that the truth stands somewhere in the middle.

As Social Media professionals, we shouldn't just assume that because audiences have an appetite for this that companies are yet convinced. We have to ensure that we are selling the benefits as well as the ideas. Just because we can do it isn't good enough. We need to convince the sceptics of the tangible benefits it will bring the business. This will often involve a small pilot or locally-produced proof of concept rather than a large campaign. And doing what PR has always done best - a softly-softly approach rather than a bull in a china shop.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The right to reply - Media agencies muscle in

I've been fascinated reading the discussion thread following the interview I gave PR Week last week about the future of PR agencies and SEO. Read the original interview here:

http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/article/903849/Media-agencies-muscle/?DCMP=EMC-DailyNews

For starters, and for the record, I don't think that the days of the PR agency are numbered. As a matter of fact, as a business, we employ a retained PR agency and use a number of other agencies on an adhoc basis. However, I do believe that marketing agencies have probably done a better job of adapting to today's competitive environment than many, but not all, PR agencies have.

When Volvo decided to move into this area, it did so with eyes open and on the back of my previous experience as the UK motor industry's first and only New Media PR Manager for BMW and MINI. And this is not about letting the chosen agency set sail with your brand and steering in whichever direction they see fit. It's about partnering with an agency who really understand the Volvo brand, its customers as well as the online audiences and influencers. It's also about partnering with the right agency who can deliver on the brief.

And I do believe, also for the record, that social media PR can play a key part in a SEO strategy. Yes, digital PR has a role to play in influencing online audiences and shaping brands as it has always done in the traditional world but ultimately, all online PR activity should be geared towards driving customers to our own website. And, at the end of the day, selling cars – after all, that's what we're all here to do. The days of long lunches and the vast MP-style expense budgets in the PR industry went a long time ago and now, more than ever, PRs need to justify what they are doing and why they are doing it.

So, if SEO and driving consumers to your website is a large part of the goal, but you also need to execute a social media strategy, what do you do? Employ a PR agency and hope they'll deliver on the SEO brief too? Not us, we've decided to employ an experienced SEO agency who, for the record too, also have a great deal of experience in creating and managing social media PR strategies alongside the in-house team to make sure the off-line and on-line activities complement one another.

This decision may have caused debate, but debate is good. We live in a world of flux where very few decisions are simple anymore and there are more and more grey areas opening up. This one, in particular, highlights the possible gap between a Marketing and PR function, and we need to ensure that nothing falls between the slats. That's why we believe that a joined up approach, working in close partnership with all stakeholders to ensure that everybody delivers exactly to the brief, is the right way to proceed. You make your own choice as to whether you think it's the right thing to do.

But does this mark the end of the PR agency as we know it. No, just companies breaking down the barriers that have traditionally existed to make the most of the resources that they have available to them.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Boy they must be annoyed

Much of my interest in cars stems from a passion in motorsport. I was racing dragsters with my father from the tender age of 10, I've raced 100cc TKM karts and my first job was working at McLaren F1 racing team in 1988 - the year of Prost and Senna.

So, as an avid motorsport fan, I sat down on the sofa to watch another Formula One race yesterday. Now, a year ago, you could have pretty much have predicted what the podium was going to look like, because it'd been the same for a good few years. It would probably have been a Ferrari or McLaren winning, with a BMW Sauber driver standing alongside them, spraying the champers over the adoring team members and fans.

Not this year however. The change of rules has meant that the form book has gone out of the window and a new guard is now installed. Well, actually a quite old, slightly bearded guard. But at least he's a Brit and we haven't been able to say that since Damon Hill's days. So, all change and all's well then?

Not quite. I suspect that all is not okay in the Boardroom at Honda at the moment for it was those Executives who, at the end of last year, decided that they'd spent enough time and money on Formula One and needed to exit, and quickly. With only a few championship points to show for hundreds of millions of dollars of spend over successive years, they needed to get out.

And along comes the team's knight in shining armour, in the guise of eminently talented Ross Brawn, who buys the outfit on the cheap, gets some funding from another bearded fellow, gels the team together and hey presto, pulls together a potentially championship-winning team in a matter of weeks.

I'm not sure how "Oh Bugger" translates in Japanese, but I suspect you can hear it being said in a good few Honda offices at the moment.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Social media, and car dealers

Spent the day at Kings Volvo in Southampton talking to their Marketing Manager. Very interesting that car dealerships are now waking up to the possibilities presented by being able to monitor what's being said by their customers online. In essence, they wouldn't ignore a customer complaining in their showroom so why would they ignore customers complaining about them online.

After all, a customer in a dealership will be heard by a few passers by. A customer who complains on a forum or board can be seen by the whole world!! That soon makes most open their eyes.

But with a few free-to-use tools set up, they'll start to understand their place in the online landscape and start communicating with their customers in a language that their customers want to use - every one's a winner.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The car that stops itself, and saves lives.

Just returned to the office after a life-changing experience - literally.

When Volvo launched the XC60 cross-over, it launched City Safety - a system that monitors cars traveling in front and, at speeds of less than 9mph, will avoid you crashing into it. The words counter-intuitive spring to mind. Here you are, driving along minding your own business and the car in front of you stops. Immediately the Volvo will apply the brakes to ensure that you don't crash into the back of the car in front. At speeds between 9 and 18mph, it will lessen the impact.

Now that's impressive, and it will certainly save those nasty repair bills but it won't save lives... until now.

I've just driven a prototype XC60 with technology that will be offered next year, and this will literally save lives. Using similar technology to City Safety, the Volvo is looking ahead for human-shaped objects. As soon as it detects a person in the road, or entering the road from the pavement, it slams the brakes on to avoid hitting it. And at speeds of up to 25mph, and maybe a little more.

50 years ago this August, Volvo invented the three-point seatbelt, but didn't patent it because it reaslied the significance of the invention in saving lives. Arguably, in 50 years time, we'll be celebrating a similiar anniversary except this time it will be a device that's saved as many pedestrians as the seatbelts as saved occupants.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hay fever relief from Volvo

Volvo is offering relief to millions of hay fever sufferers facing another summer of streaming eyes and sudden sneezes by providing a cabin of safe haven. All new Volvo models are fitted as standard with pollen filters and cabin air quality monitoring systems to create the healthiest passenger environment possible.

Hay fever effects 20 per cent of the UK population and with symptoms like sneezing and itchy eyes liable to affect a motorists ability to drive safely, it's a situation Volvo takes very seriously.

So seriously in fact, that it fits pollen filters to all its vehicles and has developed air quality monitoring systems that have been recommended by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association. The technology ensures that air passing through the vehicle is filtered to remove pollen and other airborne allergens before they reach occupants in the cabin.

Volvo has two solutions to improve the air quality inside the car - Air Quality System (AQS) with a pollen filter and the Clean Zone Interior Package (CZIP) - both of which are designed to provide relief to the millions of people in the UK who suffer with hay fever.

The Air Quality System and Pollen Filter are standard on all new Volvos and ensures that air inside the cabin is as clean as possible by continuously monitoring the amount of incoming air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone. If it senses the levels are rising too high, it temporarily closes the exterior air inlets. It also features a layer of active charcoal to remove odours and ground level ozone before they reach the cabin. The AQS works in conjunction with the standard Electronic Climate Control (ECC) to ensure a comfortable and safer environment inside the car, which is especially important for corporate drivers accustomed to spending many hours behind the wheel.

The Clean Zone Interior Package provides an interior with materials that avoid collecting dust, such as natural rubber mats instead of dust-collecting textile ones, and upholstery that conforms to the regulations set out by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association. It also includes a unique remotely controlled cabin ventilation system which automatically refreshes the car's interior as soon as it is unlocked via the remote key fob to ensure stale air is removed as quickly as possible when the driver climbs aboard. CZIP is available as an option on S80, V70, XC70 and XC60 and costs £125 (including VAT).

"Millions of people in the UK suffer from hay fever and other allergies, so it makes sense for us to focus attention on improving air quality and minimise any potential safety risk that could arise from an allergic reaction while driving," said Peter Rask, Volvo Car UK managing director.

"Our concern isn't just restricted to new vehicle buyers either. Pollen filters are replaced as part of the regular routine service at Volvo dealers, so the benefits also apply to customers purchasing older, used vehicles too."

One-Two in Sweden

The 2009 Swedish Touring Car Championship season opened this weekend at Mantorp Park and the season-opener turned into a whitewash for Volvo fans. The Volvo team Polestar with drivers Robert Dahlgren and Tommy Rustad led from the front all weekend, with Dahlgren claiming pole position and Rustad qualifing in second position on the starting grid. The race itself was equally impressive. The Volvo drivers defended their positions through Mantorps infamous start corner and continued to pull away lap after lap. Fourteen laps later, Volvo had a double victory in the bag. Dahlgren won and Rustad took second place.

Proof, if ever it were needed, that the golden days of Volvo's Touring cars where 850 Estates went wheel-to-wheel with BMWs and Vauxhalls, aren't over just yet.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Media news

Hot off the press - Volvo appoint Mindshare to Deliver SEO, Digital PR and Social Media

Volvo has appointed Mindshare to define and deliver its natural search, digital PR and social media strategy for 2009 and beyond in the UK.

Mindshare has kick started the relationship by working with Volvo Cars UK and their team of specialists to ensure the Volvo website is optimised for SEO from the ground up. This strategy will pave the way for the ongoing natural search campaign designed to drive quality traffic to the website and drive online conversions to test drive and brochure request.

Ongoing Volvo will be working with Mindshare to extend the reach of its digital PR and social media strategy. The campaign is designed to achieve two key deliverables:

1. Listening to, and engage with, online audiences including the creation and syndication of content.

2. All digital PR and social media will be optimised for SEO as part of a natural and 100% ethical link building campaign – driving the Volvo site up the natural search rankings for a suite of keywords designed to drive traffic and conversions.

The campaign will include blogger outreach, event and community management, digital PR and social marketing and buzz tracking as part of an integrated multimedia marketing strategy.

Duncan Forrester, UK Head of Public Relations for Volvo said “It is clear to me that the benefits of social media are now equally as important, and in some circumstances arguably more important, than the traditional media that we have always worked with. The ability to segment audiences and target activities at key online influencers will play an important part in Volvo's forthcoming PR strategy. I'm looking forward to working with Mindshare to delivering this vital part of our Communications strategy.

Anita Fox, Volvo Car UK's Head of Marketing Communications added "This is an extremely important year for Volvo and we’re very excited to be working with Mindshare’s SEO, digital PR and social media team, who we know will deliver results in SEO and help us better understand and connect with our digital audience."

Carolyn Watt, who heads up the Mindshare SEO, digital PR and social media division, said: “In the age of media multitasking our role is to ensure that all natural search and digital PR activity complements and drives the efficiency of all above and below the line media. It’s a privilege working with Volvo whose approach to marketing and branding is so comprehensive.”
-ENDS-

I'm back

Apologies to anybody who used to follow my old blog - thetorque.blog.co.uk. I won't bore you but as you can tell, I've changed jobs and email addresses and now can't access it. So I'm back, this time as Torque Talking and hopefully still talking about issues relevant to the UK motor industry. And there's so much going on. Falling car sales, the government scrappage scheme, new models gallore, motorshows and a whole host more.

So much to cover, so little time. Back soon with the truth as to what's going on in the UK motor industry.
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