ALBERTO ARCILLA looks every inch a corporate lawyer. Always showing up clean cut and well-dressed even during events for the motoring media, he truly deserves to be addressed as “Attorney Arcilla.” And his looking every inch a corporate lawyer actually does justice to Volvo in the Philippines.
Although he also heads The Covenant Car Company Inc. that markets the Chevrolet brand in the Philippines, Arcilla has been involved with Volvo even before the birth of Scandinavian Motors Corporation in 1994.
“I was the lawyer that negotiated for the Philippine partners to bring in Volvo to the Philippines. So I was actually engaged to negotiate the distribution contract, so that’s how I got into the automotive business,” he said.
Arcilla was not connected with the Lee family when he was negotiating on their behalf with Volvo Cars Corporation of Sweden to market the company’s vehicles in the Philippines.
But after the Lee family, who are also behind Universal Motors Corporation, among others, bagged the deal from Volvo Cars to market its products in the Philippines, Arcilla was asked to be part of Scandinavian Motors.
“And eventually when the principals [Lee family] met me along the way, they were saying ‘maybe you can stay on to see through the opening of the company.’ So I incorporated the company,” he said, referring to Scandinavian Motors that for the past 21 years has been the official distributor of Volvo vehicles in the Philippines.
He first joined the company’s legal department and stayed there for the next four years. But his involvement with the Volvo brand would soon expand beyond legal matters as he was asked a few years later to head the company’s sales department.
“I started in the legal department and eventually about after three or four years, they asked me to head the sales department, or sales and distribution. Because that was the time our volumes were already growing,” Arcilla said.
Apparently, his training in law school was also essential in the marketing of Volvo vehicles because the buyers of the brand are moneyed and well-heeled people who shelled out millions to purchase the brand’s products.
“I think that was an opportunity for me, because your training in law school is really to find ways to be able to negotiate a win-win situation. So I felt that it would be a good opportunity for me to really sit down, talk to the clients, lead the sales department on how to find the best way to have a win-win offer always,” Arcilla said.
“This is a premium car, so it was going in the millions, so it was always good to be able to give the best offer to the client,” he added.
But with his deep involvement with the Volvo brand, Arcilla would eventually climb the ladder at Scandinavian Motors or to the position of chief operating officer (COO). His being COO exposed him to the different departments of the company.
“I had the opportunity to learn every department, because as COO, you have to understand finance, you have to understand marketing and all that,” he said.
And from COO, Arcilla would be promoted as president and chief executive officer of Scandinavian Motors
Defining the Volvo brand
After being part of the Volvo brand for more than 21 years, he knows very well how to position the brand amid the many and often confusing product offerings in the local vehicle market. He also believes Volvo has a strong future in the Philippines.
“We would like to believe the market has already accepted Volvo as a premium brand,” he said.
Arcilla added that one thing going for Volvo in the Philippines is the Lee family’s commitment to the brand, with the family keeping intact the team behind Volvo in the country.
As to why Volvo has a loyal customer base and continues to get new buyers, Arcilla said what makes its products sought after among moneyed buyers is not only its being premium or high-end.
“First of all, Volvo is really a premium smart choice, it provides you the features and benefits of a luxury car. But it also is rationalized by the comfort and safety features that it gives you,” he added.
Also, people who purchase Volvo vehicles do not need to validate their social status by owning luxury vehicles or products. Instead, the buyers of the brand also help define what Volvo is.
“Our market has reached a certain level of status where they can first of all afford. However, the mindset of some individuals is to purchase an item so that they get validated on the status they have achieved in life,” Arcilla said.
“A Volvo buyer doesn’t need that [validation of social status]. What he does is he buys the Volvo car because he is the one who will define the car. So it’s our clients who define Volvo, its not the other way around,” he added.
Respectable repurchase rate
This means that Volvo buyers are independent minded and just cannot be dictated on based on trends. Arcilla knows this very well because he has been interacting with the brand’s buyers for 21 years. He calls them “affluent progressives.”
“You cannot dictate to them. They don’t follow trends. They make trends, they start trends, they’re trailblazers,” he said.
“That’s why I call it [Volvo] smart luxury, it’s a well-thought of premium purchase. So it’s really smart luxury,” Arcilla added.
Volvo also boasts of a respectable repurchase rate among its buyers, which clearly demonstrates the brand’s vehicles are among those that have cutting-edge technologies, especially when it comes to safety.
“Our clients actually have a high repurchase rate, we have about 37 percent to 45 percent on an average repurchase rate. So once you own a Volvo, along the years you would really buy another one,” Arcilla said.
Over the years, Scandinavian Motors has maintained a 7-percent share in the highly competitive luxury/premium vehicle segment in the Philippines. But Arcilla hopes to grow that to 12 percent once Volvo starts introducing its compact luxury cars to the market. So far, Volvo’s line-up is mainly made up of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and large sedans.
The direction of Volvo’s product development also promises a lot for premium car buyers based on the recently introduced XC90 SUV.
The XC90 is part of an $11-billion investment program that also marks the beginning of a new chapter in Volvo’s history by capturing its future design direction, incorporating its own range of new technologies and utilizing its new Scalable Product Architecture technology. It is also the first Volvo to carry the company’s new and more prominent iron mark that has the iconic arrow elegantly aligned with the diagonal slash across the grille. Together with the T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” DRL lights, the iron mark will give the forthcoming generation of Volvo cars a very distinctive and dynamic look.
With the latest developments in Volvo’s product development, Arcilla believes the brand can stand out in its segment also in the Philippines.
“We no longer want to be just known as a premium luxury car, we want to be the best premium luxury car. That is where the brand is leading to,” he said.