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Volvo may drop pedestrian airbags

Pro active: The pedestrian airbags from the V40 hatch are unlikely to end up in future Volvo product according to the company's global VP.

Innovative Volvo pedestrian airbag faces axe as active auto-braking tech takes over

25 Nov 2013


VOLVO is unlikely to fit future models with its much-hyped pedestrian airbag, preferring instead to push new active safety technology on cars including the long-awaited XC90 SUV.

The Swedish car-maker debuted the innovative airbags under the bonnet of its V40 hatch range that launched in Australia last February, promoting the technology's ability to protect pedestrians against serious head injury when impact occurs between 20km/h and 50km/h.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Tokyo motor show last week, Volvo Car Corporation senior vice president Lex Kerssmakers said the next-gen XC90 due in 2015 would maintain the car-maker's reputation by debuting new safety technology, but it would not include the pedestrian airbags.

“I am not even sure if we will continue with the bonnet (airbags) because if its not necessary, SUV is a pretty high car,” he said. “It's also there for the pedestrians and they need to land soft but if the car is high, they land soft anyhow. So no, at the moment not.” Asked whether the pedestrian airbags could find their way to other non-SUV models in the line-up, Mr Kerssmakers said it was unlikely, pointing to a renewed focus on active safety for the brand.

“Most likely no, because its not necessary and even more important, we are moving more and more to active safety where we have City Safety as standard. We would rather have the car braking than have it hitting something.

“Now we have pedestrian and cyclist safety systems in the car so it stops rather than hitting them and that, by definition, is better. So we focus more on the active safety than on passive, increasing the amount of balloons, that’s not very future forward-looking.” Mr Kerssmakers did not detail the kinds of new safety technologies that will end up in the production version of the XC90, only emphasising a focus on both active and passive safety and a stronger body structure.

One thing that is confirmed for the second-generation premium SUV is a plug-in electric vehicle hybrid powertrain.

Mr Kerssmakers announced this on the stand at Tokyo where he was hosting the Japanese debut of the Concept Coupe.

“From the moment we launch XC90, we will also launch the petrol plug-in version. We have the four-cylinder turbo strategy. We have a 300-plus horsepower engine as a basic engine and then you get the electrification so you end up with 600-plus Newton Metre car.

“It is the right combination between power and fuel efficiency, and that's what we are trying to achieve,” he said.

With the vehicle still in development phase, Mr Kerssmakers was unable to say what kind of fuel economy figures the XC90 PHEV could achieve, but suggested they “should be class-leading”.

“We have very fuel-efficient powertrains, combined with electrification. That's always good, that's always better than V6s and V8s. So we want the power of the V6s and V8s, however in a very modern way. We are going to call it twin-engine, because it has two engines, one in the rear and one in the front.” Volvo is not new to plug-in hybrid drivetrains, with the Geely-owned marque offering a diesel-electric hybrid version of its mid-size V60 wagon in Europe, and a limited run of electrified C30 hatches up until earlier this year.

Mr Kerssmakers said that the PHEV tech could flow on to other models in the Volvo line-up, such as the V40 hatch, but this would be part of a long-term rather than short-term plan.

He also said it was likely the company would switch the hybrid from diesel to petrol at some stage in the not-too-distant future as it is “simply the most global fuel”.

Volvo has confirmed it will debut its second concept in a series of three at the Detroit motor show in January next year. The series commenced with the sleek Concept Coupe at the Frankfurt show in September this year.

Mr Kerssmakers confirmed that the second concept would not be based on the XC90, instead only teasing that it was “something else”.

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