Belec, an emerging star at Ford, plans to show Volvo has changed

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Anne Belec is preparing for her biggest job yet in her 21-year career at Ford Motor Co.

The 42-year-old French Canadian takes the reins April 1 as president at Volvo Cars of North America, the brand's biggest global market. She's been on the road and in the air since the start of the year meeting dealers.

"I want to establish contacts with my team and my dealer network and get them to know who I am to establish a relationship," she said. After she finishes the last two markets out of 27, she'll start making the rounds internally at Volvo. Ms. Belec is not yet involved in running Volvo's day-to-day operations, still in the hands of Vic Doolan, who retires March 31 after a long automotive career.

But the single executive figures the three-month transitioning period will allow her to hit the ground running when she takes over as president. Her new office in Irvine, Calif., will be just a floor below sibling Lincoln Mercury, where she spent three years.

One of her main challenges will be to maintain the sales momentum Volvo has enjoyed in the past few years with its expanded lineup. To do that, she'll keep the marketing focus on the S40 and V50, the two car lines added in 2004.

brand awareness

Brand awareness is also top of mind for Ms. Belec. "We're a small brand in the scheme of things. Does the general public know how much Volvo has changed over the recent years?" She wants to be sure they do, as well as emphasizing Volvo's customer satisfaction in today's hyper-competitive market.

Before her promotion, Ms. Belec spent 18 months at Volvo Car Corp. in Sweden as VP-sales operations, a global job. That role involved planning for vehicle distribution, production and sales, including juggling the shipping times to get cars to market in various regions. She also worked to develop worldwide standards for sales and customer satisfaction processes, dealer-network development and upgrading showrooms to a uniform Swedish look under a global program dubbed Volvo Next Face. She's proud of the fact that Volvo's global vehicle sales rose by 10% last year vs. 2003.

Her background at Ford is well rounded, having spent time in sales, service, marketing and product development. Ms. Belec joined Ford of Canada in 1984, a year after graduating from the University of Ottawa with a marketing and business administration degree. Working in sales and service, she called on dealers.

The automaker transferred her to the U.S. in 1993 as marketing-plans manager at Ford Division. Her resume includes stints at Lincoln Mercury as general marketing manager and network and business development manager; worldwide marketing plans manager; and director of sales planning and distribution in North America. The carmaker viewed her as a rising star and slotted her into its market-leadership training program.

Dave Hillburn, who worked with Ms. Belec when he was an exec VP at WPP Group's Y&R Advertising on Lincoln Mercury, called her "one of the emerging stars at Ford." Now the owner of his own auto consultancy, he recalled how she "pioneered new ways of doing business with dealers," developed new standards and reworked the retailers' agreements with the two brands. He described her as "very bright, very competent and very well respected in the company." Ms. Belec, he added, "knew how to get things done" at the automaker.

When asked what professional accomplishments Ms. Belec relished, she cited her work on Lincoln's so-called Premier Experience. She developed dealership standards and a showroom design aligned with the brand's luxury positioning. She also mentioned developing the "Travel Well" advertising tag for Lincoln and its signature music, also adapted by regional dealer ad groups under her watch.

Her advertising philosophy is simple. "It's important you keep in mind the message you want to deliver and there has to be a full strategy behind it and a purpose to what you want to accomplish."

Just Asking

What she does in her down time: Tennis; hiking with Murphy, her golden retriever; gourmet cooking; canoeing on the lake at her Canadian cottage

What she craves: Her own-cooked pork tenderloin in cognac sauce

What she gets global marketing: Native language is French; fluent English; took Swedish classes for her last job and studied Italian and German in school.

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