This blog is a part of our series highlighting and celebrating Women founders within the subscription industry. With thousands of SUBTA members, we’re proud to tell their stories. Other blogs in this series include Simran Dua’s journey to become the CEO of My Subscription Addiction, and Chelsie Lee, who helped pivot a subscription box company in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since 2017, Volvo has done what few car companies have ever been able to do: offer a successful car subscription service. Care by Volvo is an all-inclusive service that allows vehicle owners to subscribe to their car for a 24-month lease period.
At the helm of this project sits Erica Alfonzetti. As Volvo’s Head of Subscription Offers and Operations, she manages the transition into modern-car ownership. That’s not all, though. Alfonzetti has also risen to prominence in an industry largely dominated by men.
A 2018 Deloitte study revealed that only 14% of women would fully encourage their daughters to work in the automotive industry. Citing perceived pay gaps and higher standards for women, their aversions are understandable. Fortunately, Alfonzetti’s successes serve as a beacon of hope to all women in and looking to get into the industry.
Read on to learn about how Alfonzetti is championing Volvo’s car subscription model and paving the way for women in the automotive industry.
The Car Subscription Model
Although the car subscription model isn’t new – Volvo and other manufacturers have offered such services in one form or another since about 2000 – Care by Volvo is the first to succeed.
“Other auto brands have had versions of subscription products,” says Alfonzetti. “For example, Book by Cadillac, Access by BMW and SIXT by Mercedes were similar programs, although they were structured very differently. But they have all stopped running their pilots and we are now the last man standing in the automotive subscription arena.”
When the program first launched four years ago, Volvo honed in on its customers’ pain points and then gave them the solution they’d been asking for, says Alfonzetti.
By offering an all-inclusive, seamless online service, the company solved some of the most pressing issues. From flexible terms to fully transparent fee structures, Care by Volvo has it all. The service even includes maintenance, roadside assistance, excess wear protection and insurance coverage!
For decades, the automotive industry has remained stagnant, and the coronavirus pandemic further exposed this lack of change. However, the success of Volvo’s car subscription model suggests that the industry may finally be ready to adapt.
Women in the Automotive Industry
The automotive industry is evolving, but there’s plenty of room to grow internally.
In 2019, women made up 47% of the entire U.S. labor force but only 27% of the auto manufacturing labor force, according to the Deloitte study. Luckily, Volvo is working to change that.
In the U.S., Riyhana Bey and Leigh Moynihan head up Customer Experience and Marketing, respectively. At the international level, Carla De Geyseleer serves as Chief Financial Officer with Hanna Fager handling Corporate Functions and Maria Hemberg managing Corporate Governance and Legal.
“Volvo’s awareness of diversity and inclusion eases the intimidation that many female car buyers experience,” says Alfonzetti. “After all, they make up a big segment of the car subscription customer base.”
Tips for Shattering Glass Ceilings
For many women, the term male-dominated can be discouraging, but Alfonzetti offers a different viewpoint. Don’t let such language push you away. “In my experience, it was an invitation to create meaningful change,” she explains.
Cookie-cutter conformity defeats the entire purpose of diversity, so don’t change who you are for a job – it’ll hurt you and your employer. As Alfonzetti pointedly puts it,
“The purpose of inviting new faces and bringing in diversity is because employers want authenticity. So being your authentic self brings real value.”
At the end of the day, always stay true to yourself. Your unique point of view brings new thoughts and ideas to the table, and employers value these contributions.
How Alfonzetti Strikes a Balance
As Head of Subscription Offers and Operations, Alfonzetti’s job description tends to be a bit fluid, but she likes to describe her position as “managing everything after the customer hits ‘Subscribe.’”
There are many complexities that go into accomplishing a smooth customer journey, so Alfonzetti relies on a team of professionals who each bring unique perspectives and skill sets to the table. Yet, they all share a singular goal of crafting an exceptional customer experience, which enables them to work together with humility and cohesion.
However, Alfonzetti’s most valuable tool for success is the ability to strike a work-life balance. Understanding that she “can’t pour from an empty cup” allows her to clock out at the end of the day and give herself time to rest and recharge.
Recommendations for Fostering Inclusion
In any industry – and for car subscription services, in particular – it’s crucial to listen to all customer demographics. Understanding how different genders, races, and ages experience your brand provides insight into what’s being done right and what needs to be better.
By pinpointing the areas that need to be improved upon, companies can create more inclusive brand experiences that cater to all demographics.
The company has recently launched an internal initiative, called Be Your True Self, to ensure diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of everything Volvo builds. “We are passionate about sharing ideas, passionate about discovering diverse perspectives and new cultures, passionate about developing beyond our limited view of the world or of our own abilities,” says the Volvo Group website.
The Future of the Automotive Industry
The future of the automotive industry looks bright. New ways to own a car – following the car subscription model – give customers all-inclusive vehicular freedom without subjecting them to exorbitant fees.
Car subscription services like Care by Volvo take much of the stress out of owning a car. With any luck, we’ll see more manufacturers unveil their own car subscription services and diversify their teams as the automotive industry evolves for the better.
After all, Volvo isn’t the only manufacturer committed to diversity in 2021. General Motors, for example, has a diverse executive leadership team that operates under the direction of Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.
This is the future of the automotive industry: diversity, transparency, and inclusion.