Manufacturers rarely realize where their best opportunities lie.
Case in point, Think about the overload of SUV’s that were offered in North America by 2005. Everyone had one. Even sports car companies were getting in on the act.
Likewise, the $50,000 mid-level convertible market now has more manufacturers competing in it than the minivan market. Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, Nissan, Porsche and Volvo all have at least one player in this market segment.
Do all these competitors translate into strong sales and profits for all? As we say in the redneck locales of Georgia, “Hell No!”. All of these models generate about 50,000 units a year altogether, and that total is spread between 12 models. Most of them are cookie cut from a more mainstream model.
Overall, sales translate into a bit less than two months worth of Chrysler minivan sales in the USA & Canada. Mid-level convertibles have never been a big market over the last 30 years and to be frank, if half these competitors ceased to exist, few would miss them.
With that said, should the Volvo C70 become one of the dodo’s?
Jacque Hedonist: The Volvo C70 is slathered in style. I’m not talking about the style that’s derived from some mid-level 3-series wanna-be Yuppie-mobile that has been given discordant cuts in the sheetmetal to make the retractable hardtop fit. I’m talking genuine style. The type where a manufacturer starts withgood underpinnings and designs a jack-of-all-trades mid-level ride from the chassis up.
The Volvo C70 is a good design, which says a lot in this particular segment. The lines maintain their fluidity from the front fascia to the rear without any of the buggy-eyed or Bangle butt botox that mars most of today’s sport and luxury models.
Stefan Frugalist: The wheels are too big.
Stefan: The wheels are too big.
Jacques: Oh, piss off! The wheels are the best design element on the vehicle. It makes the C70 look like something that came from the good part of Hollywood. If Volvo had enough marketing dollars, I could have easily seen this vehicle becoming the lead in Transformers instead of the Chevy Camaro.
Stefan: Are you nuts? Those wheels look to me like they came straight from a rim shop. I can’t think of a single wheel design from a manufacturer that has attracted so much love/hate attention. The black exterior complements their look. But I don’t see lighter colors performing the same trick.
Stefan: Okay, well the interior is fantastic. The seats are thick, well-stitched, and designed for the long hauls that make Volvo’s so well-liked for their interior comfort.
Jacques: What I especially loved was the absolute lack of ‘must see’ infotainment trash on the dashboard. No exposed propietary GPS that will require upgrades at the dealership or become outdated within three years. No multi-step sound system controls or climate control options that require you to keep your eyes on a screen instead of the road.
There was also an excellent balance between the quality of the interior materials and the ergonomics for the driver and passenger. Those sitting in the passenger seat are not subjected to the customary cheap dashes and an assortment of plastic buttons pointed away from them. The designers deserve special kudos for paying attention to the ‘riding’ experience along with the driving experience.
Stefan: Volvo still has too many buttons in the middle of the console. But within a few days, you get use to the design and their functionality is never in question. 95+% of what a person needs requires only the press of a single button or turn of a single knob. In that respect, Volvo deserves to be in this market just for the interior accoutrements alone.
Jacques: On the road, the c70 offers a healthy balance between sport and luxury. You don’t get the bottomed out thunks of some of the sportier competitors like the IS350c. The highway ride isn’t darty at all. In fact, I found the C70 to offer a near optimal level of sport and luxury for most of the daily driving folks actually do. The car always feels composed and, in true traditional classic Nordic form, the platform feels like it is constructed out of a single solitary piece of steel.
Stefan: The power is all there too… and then some. 250 horsepower for the upgraded T5 engine with the Polestar upgrade along with an 18/28 fuel economy rating means that you can get a sound level of fuel economy without having to resort to all the new and unproven technologies that other manufacturers are now trying to put in this market space. I’m aware of the improvements in fuel economy that the C70′s competitors offer. But I am a bit wary of their potential cost of repair.
Most folks buying these cars are not DIY types. Personally, I would have no qualms with taking the C70 and having it maintained by an independent mechanic.
Jacques: I did think the C70 is missing a few things. The dashboard has some nice thick leather all the way around (Lexus take note) but it would have been nice for Volvo to have provided some nice thick genuine woods for the interior dash and door panels. The Volvo brand has an implicit link to the Swedish penchant for developing popular ‘quality interiors’ thanks to IKEA and to a limited degree, old Volvo wagons. I think applying that more Scandinavian wood instead of high quality plastics, would go a long way to making the C70 a true standout in this segment.
Stefan: Yeah, but most folks don’t value that anymore. A consumer looking at the C70 is more than likely trying to find one of two things. Either they want a personal luxury coupe that offers a retractable top, exceptional comfort, and plenty of power for the open road. Or they are looking to buy a car that has a bit of rarity to it.
Everyone’s mom, cousin or former roommate has owned or driven a Lexus or BMW. A nice looking Volvo going down the road is something that would make many an enthusiast look twice.
Jacques: One other feature that deserves mention on the C70 was the mid-level boost. Saabs used to offer phenomenal acceleration from 40 to 70 mph and this Volvo offers the exact same punch. You don’t really need it, but I can easily see a car like this gulping down a lot of highway miles and the solid torque curve the C70 offers for these customers makes me want to recommend it to the TTAC faithful.
Stefan: I don’t know. This car retails for $47,500 MSRP. Even if you can find one at a fire-sale price, say, $44,000, you could still get two very nice vehicles that would be a far better collective value than this one. While I was driving this car I kept on thinking about the Fiat 500C Pop cabrio and, dare I mention them here, the Camry and Passat. You can have two great cars. One to do your daly duties that offers far more room and practicality than the Volvo C70. The Fiat quite frankly offers more in-town fun and a nicer look to it than the Volvo.
Jacques: Still looking at MPG’s and practicality above all else? Forget it! Cars like this are about a nice road trip for two. They are about getting where you want to go with plenty of power, style, and who cares about back seats or hauling stuff? The buyer of this car is looking for that perfect fit for one and a great weekend outing for two.
Two can squeeze in the back. But this car is more for the single executive or empty nester than the fellow looking for four seats or an around town scoot around car.
Stefan: I will say one thing. The Volvo C70 competes well without the cachet of other marques and models in this segment. But I seriously doubt that most of them will even bother to cross-shop a Volvo. It’s a shame because this model certainly deserves more attention than it gets.
Note: Volvo provided a tank of gas, insurance, and a long list of specs for the 2012 Volvo C70. Emails? Comments? Thoughts? Ramblings? Feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org