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Volvo consolidates

Sixty soon: Volvo's upcoming new XC60 will be a vital model addition.

After a bevy of new-model activities, Ford’s Swedish brand aims to reap the rewards

Volvo logo18 Feb 2008

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

VOLVO Car Australia managing director Alan Desselss is counting on steady, continued growth on the back of its XC crossover and V-series wagon models.

Speaking at the launch of two new variants of the popular C30 hatch last week, Mr Desselss said that Volvo product portfolio is now in place for the brand to build up serious steam.



“We’ve had a big changeover (of models) in 2006/7, so 2008 will really be our year of consolidation more than proliferation,” he revealed.



“I’d like our volume to be in the upper-5000 (level), which really is on the back of the XC70... and of course C30 continues to grow well... while the XC90 continues to punch above its weight.”At the end of 2005, VCA recorded 2917 sales against 4851 units last year.



“We’ve grown from 2005 to now by 65 per cent, so we’re pretty happy with the way it is going. Hopefully we can maintain that level of growth going through 2008 and into 2009 with new product,” Mr Desselss said.

The models introduced over the last 15 months – C70 coupe convertible, C30, S80 luxury sedan and new XC70 all-wheel drive wagon – will be joined at the end of the year by the XC60, the BMW X3-sized SUV that will star on Volvo’s stand at next month’s Geneva motor show.

It shares much of its EUCD architecture with the latest Land Rover Freelander, as well as the new Ford Mondeo.

While VCA will not elaborate on exactly how many additional sales it expects the XC60 to bring, big things are expected from the compact luxury SUV.

With the S60 sedan now seven years old and clearly the pensioner of the Volvo range, Mr Desselss is practical about what his company’s strengths and weaknesses are against Mercedes-Benz, BMW and a surging Audi.



 center imageTop to bottom: XC70, C30 T5, S80 and C70 coupe-convertible.



“It is not our intention to go head-to-head with the Germans in the sedan market, because clearly that is their heritage,” he explained.



“What we like to do is offer people a good alternative.



“I think we will continue to build cars for what we believe is Volvo’s heartland and strength, (which) lies in the V wagon range and XC crossover range – there is no doubt about that.



“We will always want to be a good alternative to the Germans, but clearly our strength will always be in the V and XC models.”Volvo is also thought to be investigating a premium light-car to slot underneath the C30.

Rumoured to be based on the new Mazda2/2009 Ford Fiesta platform, overseas reports suggest that Volvo may christen its new baby C10.



“I think there are those opportunities. And clearly given our Ford ownership those kinds of developments opportunities... with Ford and Mazda... are there.



“To say that we are going to bring out a new four-cylinder engine now is probably wrong but I would also definitely not rule it out, because of the synergies with Ford,” Mr Desselss offered.

VCA will keep an eye on the smaller four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine options that it offers on the C30, S40 and V50 models in Europe.

And while they are not part of the Australian model mix for the time being, Mr Desselss will not rule these out.



“Clearly Volvo will have to stay abreast with the changing demands of the public. They are becoming far more conscious of the environment every day and I think any manufacturer must stay abreast with engine technology... whether it be diesel or bio-fuel or electrical.” Mr Desselss is also pleased with the news late last year that Ford will not divest itself of Volvo as it is in the process of doing with Land Rover and Jaguar.

However, he denies that rumours of an ownership change up until recently has had a damaging effect on Volvo’s morale.



“I don’t think within the company it was an issue for us.



“Clearly at PAG (Premier Automotive Group – Ford’s now-disbanded collection of upmarket brands featuring Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and the US Lincoln marque that former CEO Jac Nasser helped set up in the late 1990s) it led to a little bit of destabilisation as much as there wasn’t a huge focus on individual brands rather than forming synergies within PAG.



“I think most people will agree that Ford ownership has benefited Volvo with technology and shared platforms and so on. So we’ve been able to develop the product range that Volvo on its own would have struggled to produce.



“What has been destabilising clearly is the disbanding of PAG that everybody worked so hard to get to.



“But I don’t think that’s a bad thing either, because everybody is quite excited about it and everybody is focussed back on the brand – back on Volvo.



“It is Volvo for Volvo rather than we having to be mindful of what we are doing because of our sister companies in Jaguar and Land Rover.”

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