By on June 1, 2010

In recent years Sweden’s car makers have staked out an uneasy position above the mainstream brands but below the premium European marques. With profits elusive, both were recently sold by their American owners. And both are about to introduce new sedans that they badly need to sell well. How does the pricing of the new 2011 Volvo S60 and 2010 Saab 9-5 compare? Has either been priced aggressively to pump up sales?

I’ve come across remarks that the Saab is considerably more expensive than the Volvo. And it is, especially before adjusting for its roughty $4,250 in additional standard content (based on TrueDelta.com’s car price comparison tool). The Volvo starts at $38,500, the Saab at $48,390. In both cases only the top trim level will be available initially, with others to follow.

But this isn’t a valid comparison. They’re both sedans powered through all four wheels by 300-horsepower turbocharged sixes, but the 9-5 is much larger than the S60, with 15 inches more overall length (197 vs. 182) and over five inches more rear legroom (38.8 vs. 33.5). The Volvo S60 really competes with the Saab 9-3, while the Saab 9-5 really competes with the Volvo S80. So each requires a comparison with its own peer group.

For the enlarged Saab 9-5, this means other midsize luxury sedans. After similarly loading up both cars (the default comparison at TrueDelta.com), the 2011 BMW 535i was about $15,000 more than the new 9-5. Even after adjusting for remaining feature differences the BMW is about $13,900 more, a sizable premium but one that history has proven many people will pay. The 2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic is not quite as pricey, about $10,200 more before feature adjustments, and about $8,000 afterwards. The 2010 Audi A6 3.0T is closer still, about $5,300 more than the Saab before feature adjustments, and about $5,700 more afterwards.

Moving beyond the pricey Germans, the redesigned 2011 Infiniti M37x lists for virtually the same as the Saab before adjusting for remaining feature differences, but is about $3,000 more afterwards. A Lexus GS 350 AWD? About $1,800 less than the Saab, but also a little more compact. And the 2010 Volvo S80 T6, which has failed to meet sales expectations? It’s about $600 more before feature adjustments and about $900 more afterwards. Close, but it offers considerably less rear legroom, and needs to be closer to the Saab in size. From these comparisons, Saab appears to have priced the new 9-5 about even with the Volvo (which few buyers pay remotely close to sticker for) and not far from the Infiniti and Lexus. If the car sells, it won’t be based on an aggressive pricing strategy.

The new Volvo S60 goes up against the 3-Series and the other aspirants to the BMW’s crown. It replaces a model that has been on life support in the U.S. for the past three model years. Here as well the BMW costs quite a bit more. Specifically, a similarly loaded up 2011 335i xDrive lists for about $7,200 more. With the 2010 Audi S4 the difference is even larger, about $10,000. But then Volvo hasn’t blessed the new car with its late, lamented R moniker. The closest American competitor, the Cadillac CTS 3.6 AWD, is about $4,000 more than the Volvo after a series of price increases over the past few years.

On the other hand, a 2010 Infiniti 2010 G37x lists for about $4,900 less before feature adjustments, and still about $2,900 less afterwards. (The Japanese offer no other 300+ horsepower AWD sedans in this lower-midsize entry lux class.) Saab deprived the 9-3 of its V6 for 2010. Going back to the 2009, the 9-3 Aero was about $2,500 more expensive than the new S60—but massive $6,500+ rebates were required to get them off dealer lots. And what about the Volkswagen CC, which shares a coupe-like roofline with the new S60? In VR6 form it’s within $1,000 of the Volvo. The Volvo’s interior should be considerably nicer than the VW’s, and in general it should have a more premium look and feel. But is this a sign that the Volvo is aggressively priced, or that the VW is overpriced? More likely the latter.

So, with the new cars both Saab and Volvo appear to have maintained their pricing position from the past decade or so. They’re much less expensive than comparable German cars, but are at best even with and are often more expensive than Japanese competitors. This pricing strategy hasn’t helped them sell many cars in the U.S. in recent memory. So, unless the new cars are highly desirable to car buyers—they’ve really got to be outstanding in some highly relevant way—they’re not likely to sell much better than the cars they replace.

Of the two, the Volvo has the better shot, even a much better shot. Its brand is stronger, with a clearer identity and broader awareness and consideration. Its company’s future is (relatively) more secure. The new sedan’s more dramatically styled. And it’s simply easier to sell a $40,000 car than a $50,000 car.

But even $40,000 is a stretch for these brands. Neither should count on selling many new S60s or 9-5s with the top trim level, and each needs to introduce lesser trims before the public fixates on the introductory pricing—if it hasn’t already.

To run your own price comparisons: Car price comparisons

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51 Comments on “Price Analysis: 2010 Volvo S60 And 2011 Saab 9-5...”


  • avatar
    John Horner

    Saab remains a dead brand. Has Vegas started betting action yet on how long it will be until the Saab story is over?

    • 0 avatar
      176770

      Seriously why so negitive? Saab is under new ownership and has a good chance at a great future.

    • 0 avatar
      kschirm13

      For every great turn around story and come from behind victory the majority forecast failure and or death. Perhaps it is a reflection on their own lack of will, fortitude and fight as they would roll over and accept defeat in the face of adversity. This is what makes such a feat so captivating and inspiring as it displays the most impressive, primal and beautiful human element: the courage to survive and the confidence to win. I know Victor Muller personally and he possesses these unique human qualities.

      Apple Computers was written off for dead in the mid-late 90′s.
      Lance Armstrong was presumed dead by Cofidis and would never race again if he survived.
      Adidas was on the brink of being shuttered in 1992.
      The list goes and you should get the picture.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Stupid strategy. They should introduce all trim levels simultaneously, not just the top level model if they plan to sell in any kind of volume.

    • 0 avatar
      176770

      Easier said than done. They are tring to roll the car out globaly but you can only make so many at a time. I guess the theory is the US will have the biggest demand for the V6 so they are sending them there.

    • 0 avatar
      kschirm13

      Also lets not discount the number that GM did on the company over the last 2 years: strategic review, cut loose and an unconscionable sale process. Many plans were significantly altered in the aftermath and Saab had up the pieces and march on with the conditions that were left. Mark my words MY 2011 will be Saab’s year to rise from the ashes and become a viable, small but viable and relevant brand in the industry.

  • avatar

    Yes, I can’t believe that people will still invest in Saab. What a waste

  • avatar
    caljn

    That Volvo certainly resembles a Nissan Maxima, which I would prefer to the Volvo.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Apples to apples, the S80 T6 AWD would be a better comparison. The 2011 S80 T6 will be 300HP since the V8 is being dropped and they compare favourably in terms of size. Even still, the analysis is spot on, Saab is still a dead brand walking. I spent considerable time in the new 9-5 while covering the LA Auto Show for TTAC in November, I was not impressed. The interior quality was only a step up form the old 9-5 bringing the new 9-5 squarely into the mid 1990s in terms of GM interior quality. It just isn’t enough.

    • 0 avatar

      They had the car in LA? I’m pretty sure they didn’t have it at NAIAS. Or if they did I guess I missed it.

      Some are reporting that it’s a fairly good car, but certainly not a great one. What baffles me is the apparent assumption that they can sell a $50,000+ car, and that this might be the solution Saab has been looking for.

      The piece isn’t really a comparison between the 9-5 and S60–Ed might have mistitled it. The actual text compares the 9-5 with the S80.

    • 0 avatar

      I also saw the new 9-5 at the L.A. show. I remember thinking, “I doubt I’ll ever see one of these again”.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Ford took a european maker of durable and safe but boring cars and tried to make it a luxury brand. GM took a european maker of quirky and unique cars and tried to make it a luxury brand. Both failed miserably. It appears to me that the new owners of Volvo and Saab have not learned this lesson. I predict that the outcome will be the same.
    These are small players who have to find a niche. They cannot go up against M-B, BMW or Audi. They need to sell a Subaru or Honda with a sweedish flavor and a reasonable price. Find the niche, and then do it better than anyone else. The european maker who can sell a european vibe with japaneese quality and pricing will sell a lot of cars.

    • 0 avatar

      You mean a Northern European location and prices set high enough to cover the costs of Scandanavian labor don’t in themselves make a car essentially equivalent to a BMW?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I think the new owners of Saab do “get it” – the trouble is a car company has a turning circle that makes an oil tanker seem nimble. So for the time being they are having to make the best they can out of what GM gave them to work with.

      Muller has already said an interior upgrade for the 9-5 is priority #1, and the new 93 (due next year as a 2012) is supposed to be really good. But for the time being, I fully expect big discounts to be the order of the day for the 9-5.

    • 0 avatar
      drivebywire

      Agreed.
      GM screwed Saab.
      Ford’s handling of Volvo was better, but still not great.
      If the Chinese take the price of a Volvo down to levels which compete with the Accord and Camry, they’ll sell.
      Also, selling to the US is of less interest to them than in China itself. Volvo will sell big in China.

    • 0 avatar

      jpcavanaugh is exactly right, they need to stop competing with the Germans and even the Japanese luxury brands. Instead, they need to find the vacated spot they used to fill…the semi-luxury sporty European alternative. VW owns the whole market right now…with Buick badged Opels giving it a shot. Pricing needs to be just barely above Honda, Toyota and Nissan.

      As for the seats, as someone who put 108k on a 2001 S60, Volvo seats rule. The seats in our 2000 v70 XC were even better. Yet both cars are now absent from my garage, and I have no plans to add another Volvo at these prices, especially with reliability declining.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Michael,

    I’m not sure what motivated Saab to bring it to LA. The only thing I can think of is that at the time it was still pre-wind down talks at GM. The response from the motoring press was underwhelming, it was jammed between Volvo’s booth and Buick. All they had was the new 9-5 and a 9-3 convertible and one sad employee looking terribly bored. The exterior of the car is interesting, pleasing one might even say. It was the quality of the hard interior plastics and the strangely proportioned centre console that I found to be less than competitive.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The Volvo S60 really competes with the Saab 9-3

    Having been in both, the 9-3 competes more with the S40/V50, largely because both cars are incredibly cramped inside.

    • 0 avatar

      Have you checked the interior specs for the new S60?

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Psarhjinian,
      You can’t be judging ‘cramped’ cars with your 6’14″ frame. You’re misleading any normal people who believe you! ;)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The new one? No. The old was was pretty cramped in the rear, as most recent Volvos all seem to be. I would be surprised if the new S60 fixes this, as it would put the S80 in a poor light.

      But the 9-3 is even worse. The front seats are really nice, and there’s a decent amount of headroom, but the rear is very tight, far more than both the S60 and the GM2800-based 900/9-3 that preceded it. Cargo space isn’t great, either. In terms of useful space, power and content for the dollar, the 9-3 seems to line up with the S40/V50.

      Specs are tricky when it comes to interior comfort. If Volvo’s raised the roof or hip-point of the S60, it could do wonders for the car. The same could be true of the new 9-5: it has that “pillbox” look common to other GM cars with compromised interior space.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      @srogers

      Good point. On the other hand, I’ll notice good (Kia Rondo) or bad (Chevy Impala) packaging long before the rest of you midgets would. :P

      Put it this way: if I’m uncomfortable in a car immediately, you’ll be uncomfortable in it in an hour or so. I’ll notice Toyota’s traditional short front-seat cushion, or GM’s low and badly-angled rear seat very quickly.

      Most luxury cars have problems with rear-seat space. I think—I’m not sure—that it’s the result of the front seats’ being quite large. Volvo compounds this problem with a lack of headroom, especially in the rear. Most people won’t see this immediately, but it really shows up vis a vis some of Volvo’s competition. The old 9-5, especially the wagon, absolutely humiliated the S80 for useful space; Volvo practically forces you into the XC90 if you want to carry more than two people on a regular basis.

      The front seats, though, are generally very nice. I have some trouble with the sunroof, but if you can skip it, the cars are quite good for tall folk.

    • 0 avatar
      kschirm13

      seriously, have you ever sat in the back of an A4 of a 3 series. So should they also be compared to the S40/V50. 9-3 is considerably larger than the S40 and has very good cargo space.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Like most Euro cars, there is a steep depreciation curve in the first two years. Unlike most Euro cars, Volvo and Saab have dreamy, aspirational window stickers that appear to be in no way related to actual selling prices.

    Consumers that don’t have to have a Volvo (nearly all of us) know it’s not really a luxury brand. Sit in Lexus and then sit in a Volvo. This will tell you all you need to know. The Volvo still drives better than the Lexus, but the Lexus/BMW/MB/Audi have it all over the Volvo for interior luxury space.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    American Saab is a question no one is asking. In China, where some growth is likely, who knows? I’m guessing that’s where any action will be. As a former 9-3 owner I can’t say I’m sad. It was a nice car, but the market is saturated with nice cars. Just the other day I noticed a Chevy SUV with Saab wheel covers parked out on the curb, and immediately understood why the brand will (and never should) come back.

  • avatar
    Lexingtonian

    Um, yeah.

    A few years ago, I was cross-shopping the 335i, C350, and G35; picking the G35. I never considered the S60 in the same class, and I’m somewhat surprised to find out it costs as much as a G.

    Recently I’ve been cross-shopping the 535i, E350, and M37, liking the M37, but looking more at the E due to it coming in a wagon. I’ve never considered the 9-5 in the same class, and I’m somewhat surprised to find out it costs as much as an M.

    Really, what’s the issue here? I’m used to price differences between BMW/MB and Infiniti/Audi/etc explained away as the cost of the cachet associated with the more “prestigious” brands, but, seriously, does anyone think Volvo and Saab are either as good of a car as the Infiniti they share a price with *or* a more prestigious marque?

  • avatar
    red60r

    The Volvo is built with Belgian (in Ghent), not Scandinavian labor. Or, whatever they have imported for the factory floor. Sit in the Volvo, and in a Lexus for a 800-mile Interstate trip. See which leaves your back and legs happiest (at least, in the front seats…) That’s the real luxury.

    • 0 avatar
      drivebywire

      Agreed.

      I’ve had pre-GM Saabs and pre-Ford Volvos, worked on them both myself, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of ownership. Quirky…yes, but good quirky. These were good cars for engineers who are interested in how things work, and how to get their hands dirty on a weekend.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Given the state of the brand, I think the Saab 9-5 is not so much aimed at the general public but at hard core Saab-philes who want one more Saab before the brand goes under.

    • 0 avatar

      But will Saab-philes want such a large car? It’s 195 inches long. The size, V6 engine, and such tell me it was designed to broaden Saab’s appeal.

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      It’s a bit big for my taste. I’ll take a look at the next 9-3 when it comes out, especially if it comes with a hatch. But overall I’m looking to downsize on cars, so even the purported Model 92 retro redo will be of interest.

    • 0 avatar
      176770

      Well Saab has a fully funded year business plan it won’t be going under any time soon. Try and give me one thing wrong with the 9-5 because the first reports can only mention small faults and say its on par with the German cars.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Good analysis, but I have trouble understanding the market for either of these cars. The A4 has it all over the Volvo, except in horsepower — people who want performance can get a 335. And as for the Volvo, I don’t see a 5-series or E-class intender even giving it a second thought.

    For about $28K new, you can get a really nicely equipped Accord, Legacy, or whatever. So to charge more than that, a carmaker has to offer consumers both a significantly better car as well as a better brand. I just don’t think the Swedes are doing that today.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’m currently driving a brand-new rented Accord on a business trip to San Diego. My daily driver is an ’08 9-3 SportCombi. Despite it’s flaws, the 9-3 is simply a whole other realm of car from this bloated barge of a thing. Is it $10K+ better? Dunno, I paid less for my ’08 SportCombi in March of ’09 new than a friend of mine did for a not nearly as well-spec’d ’09 Accord. Of course, that is not a sustainable situation for Saab. But I think $5K more than a Camcordnata is a place they can successfully be.

      And while I realize this is a rental car, the shaking brakes and interior rattles in this 3K mile Honda are not impressing me in the slightest. My friend with the Accord bought new tires for it at 10K miles because he couldn’t stand the noise of the OEM, and has had 2 check engine light issues in 15K miles. At nearly 20K miles my Saab is faultless, save for a dodgy sunroof switch replaced at the first service. I am firmly of the opinion that the quality reputation of the Japanese is largely past laurels.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      krhodes,
      I recently bought a 2010 Accord – after driving, and loving, a succession of Saabs over a number of years, logging 100,000+ miles in them. I am an unabashed Saab apologist.

      Saabs are more interesting and entertaining to drive, for sure. But the Accord, especially with a manual trans, is as fun as a midsize family car needs to be. It’s not visceral, but the driving dynamics are better than they have any right to be, despite the “Accord bloat” that everyone prattles on about.

      I have no rattles, not achy shaky brakes, no CELs – and I enjoy the um…”road feel”. Makes me think I’m driving European again. I know more people that drive Hondas than any other brand, and they are one happy bunch. Your singular experience with a rental notwithstanding, I think Honda’s quality is still well-earned.

  • avatar
    IGB

    The Volvo is Chinese. $40k for a Chinese car will never happen for me. Belgian/Swedish…Chinese. Sorry. The Genesis buyers may move up to this someday.

    The Saab is…something anyway. And it’s interesting. I could lease it and feel good about it. Maybe even buy it. They need to take Saabs out of the Buick showrooms/service bays first though.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      It may be in that Buick service bay because at heart it’s a gussied up LaCrosse.

    • 0 avatar
      PennSt8

      Volvo hasn’t officially been transferred over to Chinese ownership, and even if it were the “Chinese” had nothing to do with design and engineering of any Volvo branded vehicle. So how this is a “Chinese” car is beyond me.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      @SherbornSean:

      Do you actually know anything about the new 9-5′s construction, or are you just trying to be clever by repeating things you hear other people saying?

    • 0 avatar
      176770

      SherbornSean, it is unfai to call this anything but a Saab. It may be based on GM architecture but 70% of the parts are unique to Saab and it doesn’t drive like a an Opal or Buik either.

    • 0 avatar
      kschirm13

      sherbornsean: Your statement about a 9-5 being a “gussied” up Buick shows lack of knowledge about the industry. By your description, a Porsche Cayenne nothing more than a “gussied up” VW Touareg? Also can a Buick LaCrosse do this?

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      I stand corrected: the 9-5 is a VERY gussied up Buick. And yes, I consider both the Cayenne and A7 to be gussied up Tourags.

      Seriously, guys, when you start with a standard GM platform, you by nature are starting with something that is not designed to compete with the 535s and E350s of the world. You can approximate many of the properties of a midsized luxury sedan, but chassis balance, steering feel and weight will always be a compromise.

      If you think the new 9-5 is worth $50K, more power to you. You’ll probably be the first person in your city to pay less than $12K off list for a Saab in years.

    • 0 avatar
      kschirm13

      2 standard GM platforms recently compared very well against the best the Germans have to offer. The CTS-V beat the M5 in 2 different road tests one by R&T and the other by C&D. The Vette ZR1 went head to head with the best Europe had to offer (Porsche, Lambo and Ferrari) and came out very very well. I don’t look at sharing GM architecture as an impairment or quality/performance limiter. Given their recent launches, that is somewhat archaic thinking.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    “The Japanese offer no other 300+ horsepower AWD sedans in this lower-midsize entry lux class.”

    What happened to the Acura TL SH-AWD?

  • avatar

    Saab looks great. Hope it drives the same as it looks =)

    But I think I will wait for 2011 2.0t model which will hopefully be a lot cheaper and less hungry

  • avatar
    akitadog

    “…the BMW is about $11,700 more, a sizable premium but one that history has proven many people will pay.”

    More like history has proven that many people will LEASE, at monthly payments equivalent to a much cheaper car were it being financed. The percentages of any luxury car being BOUGHT new are small compared to the number being leased. The pressure to look to the rest of the world like you have more money than you do is immense, especially in large metro areas.

  • avatar
    Buddhabman

    It will be interesting to see how they get more people in the door for a demonstration drive. That’s really the key, they have to get the BMW, Audi, Acura, Volvo buyer to come in and cross shop. AWD will help sales in the northeast and mountain regions. The price point will be a tough one, but the 9-5 has been a Consumer Reports top pick since 2003, it’s a pretty trouble free car. I am waiting for the 2011-12 9-5 Sport-Combi to arrive.


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