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.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

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

In my recent blog post 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

And that decision caused a bit of a stir –

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 -
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