By on July 29, 2013

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Let’s talk about Volvo. You know Volvo. It’s your favorite Swedish brand. It’s my favorite Swedish brand. It’s everyone’s favorite Swedish brand, except for 13-year-old boys who are still holding out hope that the local rich guy will buy a Koenigsegg and bring it to Cars and Coffee.

The reason we all love Volvo so much is, of course, its rich and colorful history. Now, I don’t actually know any of this history, but if you contacted Volvo’s PR department I think you’d find that it began in roughly 1966 when Irv Gordon bought that 1800S they’re always putting in ads to prove that Volvo has, on at least one occasion, built a car that didn’t start leaking fluids nine hours after the warranty expired.

Of course, I kid. Volvo used to make many dependable automobiles. I know this because my high school parking lot was full of Volvo 240 sedans and wagons, battle-scarred after years of providing reliable family transportation, that were passed down to adolescent males who used them to drift in the snow.

But Volvo is more than box-shaped family transportation. They’ve had some fun cars, too. Take, for instance, the 850 T-5R, which singlehandedly transformed Volvo’s reputation from a brand that builds boring cars to a brand that builds slightly exciting cars and paints them yellow. And who can forget the highly enjoyable S60R and V70R, which are currently scraping parking curbs all over North America?

It’s cars like these – and several others that I’ve probably forgotten about, since my research for this article consisted primarily of looking out the window – that have earned Volvo so many fans. And that’s why I, like so many of you, was completely dismayed several weeks ago to learn Volvo will disappear in 2014.

Of course, this information didn’t come from Volvo. It came from a website called “Wall Street 24/7,” which I would describe as “middling” except that it has 10 times as many Twitter followers as TTAC. If you’re unsure why I bring this up, it’s because people my age equate “number of Twitter followers” with “importance.” By this sound logic, Justin Bieber is more important than Barack Obama. Some of you may actually agree with that.

Anyway, “Wall Street 24/7” posted an article entitled “Things That Will Disappear in 2014,” and one of those things Volvo, which sent everyone into a frenzy because there’s no way Volvo can disappear in 2014, because if that happens then how will I replace my S60R’s scraped front bumper? Interestingly, the article also cited Mitsubishi, which sent absolutely no one into a frenzy, though it did remind most of us that Mitsubishi still builds cars.

But could the article be accurate?

No. Not at all. The idea of Volvo disappearing next year is ridiculous, considering that Lotus still hasn’t disappeared even though its employees think of Rolls-Royce as a “volume brand.”

But that doesn’t mean things are rosy for Volvo. Last year, they only sold 68,000 cars in the US. That may not sound so bad, but here’s the number from another perspective: during the same timeframe, Mercedes sold 82,000 C-Classes. Yes, it’s true: Volvo sold 20 percent fewer cars, in total, than Mercedes sold C-Classes. Mercedes sold almost four and a half times more cars overall.

So the question is: where does Volvo go from here? Fortunately, I have a two-step plan that I believe will guide them to safety. (Get it? A plan that will guide Volvo … to safety? OK, fine, don’t laugh now, but you’ll be telling that joke at Cars and Coffee.) The plan is:

1. Stop with the sporty stuff. Yes, the 850 T-5R was cool. And the V70R was cool. And the S60R was brightly colored. But that doesn’t mean every Volvo needs an R-Design trim level, big wheels, and a bodykit. Here’s the thing: everyone is going sporty. Even Mercedes – former manufacturer of vehicles with extra-large parcel shelves for tissue box placement – is increasingly becoming a major player in the high-performance realm.

But here’s the thing: not everyone wants sporty. Some people still want a safe, dependable, durable, boring luxury car, which brings us to…

2. Go back to your roots. The Volvo of years past built solid, well-designed cars that were known, above all, for keeping you safe in a collision. The Volvo of today builds a two-door hatchback with challenging rear-seat access. Return to the land of durable and safe, and you’ll find shoppers who want the same. I know this because they’re all still driving 1996 850 wagons with no sunroof and thinking: I hope I don’t crash this, because I’ll have to replace it with something that has a bodykit.

Using my simple strategy, Volvo could easily retake its rightful spot among Brands Whose Demise Isn’t A Possibility in just a few short years. Of course, Volvo won’t get there with only my strategy. They’ll need some help. A testimonial, perhaps. Or few nice pictures. Or maybe a guy who put three million miles on his 1966 1800S.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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185 Comments on “Where Does Volvo Go From Here?...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Go back to your roots indeed. Keep the S60 but drop the S80 and all of the other crap you’ve been peddling for the past decade. Build two things: some kind of crappy CUV and the 240. The gotta-have-its will buy your CUV and the Volvo faithful will be all over the new 240. Oh and when I say 240, I don’t mean a crappy 21st century interpretation with no visibility, ugly lines, and infotainment up the posterior… I mean go back to the 90-93 240 and build it as a concept, take it from there.

    • 0 avatar
      964junkie

      Your comment about the S80 raises an interesting counterpoint. The S80 is arguably the most “traditional” Volvo currently on the market, which leads me to the question – how are S80 sales doing?

      OR perhaps the right question is – have the “traditional” Volvo buyers shifted from the S80/V70-esque Volvos towards the XC70? Are the XC70 buyers the same type of people who drove 240, 850, 960, V90 and V70 wagons?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I tend to agree the S80 is the closest thing to traditional they offer, but it is effectively the next generation 850/S70 (both of which were to many a love/hate relationship). I might survey S80 buyers and try to determine (1) why they purchased it over other models and (2) why they purchased a Volvo over a competitor. Depending on those results, I might keep one model as a transverse FWD (either S60 or S80), scrap the rest and build at least one modular RWD platform to use for sedans, wagons, and CUVs.

        To answer your question, I don’t see XC70 buyers as being traditional Volvo buyers. The traditional buyers have either moved on somewhat (either to other models or other brands) or are still driving the 700 and 900 series cars.

        • 0 avatar
          Mark_MB750M

          Well, I’m not sure how “traditional” we are, but we’ve had Volvos for the last 12 years. S60, V50, and then 2 V70s. We recently replaced one V70 with an XC70. Despite the movement of the XC70 to more of an SUV, we discovered that it has the same cargo and passenger space as our real wagons, along with a relatively low bumper height. We cross-shopped the Audi Allroad and Subaru Outback, which were really the only other wagons we could find.
          I’d have preferred another V70, but the XC70 preserves most of the wagon-y goodness we’ve grown accustomed to.

    • 0 avatar
      CH1

      The 240 ended production decades ago. Unless you describe in some level of detail this new 240 you’re proposing, it’s meaningless. What is the type, size, features, rough specifications, and competitive targets of this new 240?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Good point. You use the size and design styling of the original 240 as your template, which in today’s terms is a D segment car. Maybe shorten the trunk 6-8 inches but still keep it a reasonable size for cargo, and enhance the rear seats can fold down. Put the basic S60/S80 dash layout in it, but like the 240 keep things somewhat minimalistic. Offer some standard features (pw/pl, ac, multiple airbags) but give the buyers a chance to order (or delete) others such as infotainment, moonroof, leather, cooled/heated front or rear seats. Give it a torquey gas 4/6spd auto to start with manual options later, and ensure the engine bay can accept something larger down the line. Take pains to ensure buyers can SEE out of the car all the way around and offer an actual separate set of bumpers on the car (even if it need to be recessed). Retro without going to far back in time. Maybe offer a hatch (but not full blown wagon). Build a concept and see what the public thinks.

        • 0 avatar
          CH1

          Thanks for the reply.

          You didn’t answer the part about the competitive targets, which is crucial because, for one, I don’t see much difference between what you described and the current S80. The main differences are retro styling (a complete no-no in today’s market), better visibility and a 4-cyl engine. Volvo has already announced a 4-cyl only strategy and production of those engines have already started.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thanks for the reply. In the past Volvo competed mostly with the other European marques, but I think in the US it mostly got by on safety, reliability/longevity, and niche status. I’m not sure it can get by on just those attributes any longer but later in the thread a fellow commentator suggested they focus on reliability, attempting to become a “European” Honda. This really isn’t a bad idea, at least for the North American market since much of the Euro stuff sold here (including Volvos) isn’t known for reliability or simplicity. So you build your new 240 and challenge the near luxury segment of the North American market (so Camry/Avalon, Altima/Maxima, Accord/TL, Fusion/Zephyr, Lacrosse/New Impala). A good segment of buyers want predictable and somewhat luxurious transportation while retaining good to excellent resale (I think that’s the formula for the Toyota Avalon actually). Offer it to them, “for life”.

            I would argue what the 240 was and what I was proposing are very dissimilar to what the S80 is and was. I’m not as familiar with the Gen 2 S80 and I can’t speak to it, however I am very familiar with the Gen 1:

            S80 was intended to be a “flagship” executive car, technically a replacement for the 960/S90. The 240 was never an executive car nor did it aim to be which is why the 700 series Volvo was designed (in fact 240 was more crude in comparison). I advocate for a lower tiered volume car akin to what the 240 was in its time.

            S80 is nowhere near as durable as the 200, 700 and heck even 800 series Volvos, in fact it is quite fragile in comparison. The S80 was made to be a shop car, the engine bay is extremely crampt possibly tripling labor time on a repair vs a comparable 200/700/900 series. People frequently hooptify BMW 740s and Benz S500s (till they too fail), people don’t do the same with S80s because the cars cannot respond to the abuse. One of the hallmarks of a RWD Volvo is its ability to absorb abuse. While this may be unusual for a luxury or near luxury brand, it becomes a good selling point when you explain to the buyer his wife/kids and other relations could be driving it long after its paid off. Sure you could in theory make the argument about the other Euro makes, but then you run into the pitfalls of a European car out of warranty. For a long time Volvo was effectively exempt from those fears.

            The road noise in an S80 is on par with the road noise in a 240, but much greater than that in a comparable 960/S90, which are technically its predecessors.

            Volvo’s general reliability issues post MY98 are well documented and rear their heads on all models, but S80 in particular is plagued with electrical and transmission issues. Volvo for decades marketed itself as a product you could buy new, maintain, and keep for many years of service. Not so for S80.

            The interior materials used on S80 in particular as a “flagship” were somewhere between adequate and subpar in quality/longevity, including the dash, leather, steering wheel, and other materials. This may be more of a supplier than designer issue, but my 240 has no such materials issues considering its much older and was sold at a lower price point for its time. I routinely see 740s and 940s with leather and interiors in much better condition (albeit less refined and more “80s looking”).

            “retro styling (a complete no-no in today’s market)”

            Ford (Mustang), VW (New Beetle) and Chrysler (Charger, Challenger, 300) have all pulled off modern-but-retro styling in the recent past I see no reason why a somewhat retro 240 would instantly flop. If the platform is designed correctly, it could spawn a sedan, coupe, hatch, wagon, or CUV based on demand.

            “Volvo has already announced a 4-cyl only strategy and production of those engines have already started.”

            Volvo may be going in a four cylinder direction, but completely ignoring the merits of its past are not a recipe for success. I think to really understand the cult of 240 you have to have spent time with one and spent time with the newer models to really understand whats lacking.

          • 0 avatar
            CH1

            You got so many things wrong I’m not sure where to begin.

            The assertion that the S80 has as much road noise as the 240 and more than the 960 is so ludicrous it’s not worth a response.

            The S80 is less reliable than the 240??

            The S80 is at worst average among Volvos. On the latest JD Power VDS (the 3-yr survey, not initial quality), Volvos have 149 problems/100 cars versus 163 for the top brand, Lexus, on the 2003 survey. Do you think for even one second that the 240 was more reliable those Lexuses?

            It is not feasible for Volvo to compete against Camrys, Accords, Altimas, Maximas, etc. It would be impossible to price competitively because of economies of scale.

            Case in point, the primary reason the V40 isn’t in the U.S is because it would not be profitable priced competitively against Audi and BMW which are much smaller volume brands than Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

            But enough of the point-by-point rebuttal. Your fundamental misconception, I think, is that Volvo’s heyday in the U.S. was back during the time of the 240. It wasn’t. As I wrote in another post below:

            “Volvo U.S sales peaked at over 139,000 cars in 2004 – …. 11 years after the demise of the 240. The sales leaders were the XC90, S60, S40 and XC70, in that order.

            All the talk about Volvo returning to bricks and wagons is unadulterated rubbish.”

            I understand the source of the misconception, though. The 240 was the bulk of Volvo sales in its day, and was in production for 20 (twenty!) years. By the time production ended in 1993, they were everywhere and synonymous with Volvo.

            In contrast, during the actual peak years of the early 2000s sales were spread over several different models which were in market for just a few years. There was no longer a single Volvo model that people saw in large numbers.

            This is why people who grew up with the 240 tend to have the false impression that Volvo’s decline began with the demise of the 240, RWD, boxiness and wagons; leading to calls for a return to a golden age that never was.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Hop in a 240 with 150K and then do the same with an S80/150K and 960/150K and say that with a straight face. The whole point of a Volvo is they [did] age well, any high priced car should score well on initial quality surveys, what set Volvo apart is they performed well as they aged.

            I have worked in and still do IT work in an indy Volvo shop, I can assure you the Gen 1 S80 is well behind the 86-89 and eons behind the 90-93 240 in terms of durability and overall reliability. If you don’t believe me scour the message boards for issues on the Gen 1 S80. I haven’t had enough experience with the Gen 2 to give an opinion.

            Brand new MY93 240 and new MY13 Lexus will average about the same in terms of initial quality for what they were designed to do.

            “It is not feasible for Volvo to compete against Camrys, Accords, Altimas, Maximas, etc. It would be impossible to price competitively because of economies of scale.”

            I disagree, Avalon MSRPs at $30,990 and options up to $39K+. Volvo could come up something similar in the low to mid 30s if they were interested in a semi-luxurious volume model.

            “Case in point, the primary reason the V40 isn’t in the U.S is because it would not be profitable priced competitively against Audi and BMW which are much smaller volume brands than Toyota, Honda and Nissan.”

            This is where you show your hand, there WAS a V40 offered between MY00 and I believe MY03, I know this because I just *drove* a 2000 V40 and the V40 was replaced by the V50 in 2004, which itself was offered though 2011 in the US. If it wasn’t profitable then it would not have been offered for so long, the reasons behind its discontinuation are up for debate but ultimately irrelevant in the 240/S80 debate.

            I’m going to guess if you have any knowledge or ownership experiences with Volvo, its after the Ford buyout and thus you could not possibly understand what I am talking about as the models post MY98 are night and day compared to what they were.

            http://en.wikipedia DOT org/wiki/Volvo_S40

            “Volvo U.S sales peaked at over 139,000 cars in 2004 – …. 11 years after the demise of the 240. The sales leaders were the XC90, S60, S40 and XC70, in that order.

            All the talk about Volvo returning to bricks and wagons is unadulterated rubbish.”

            I will re-post what I said below in the thread.

            What was the overall amount of cars sold in MY75 or MY90 vs Volvo’s 2004 sales figures? A better argument would show market share during the 144 and 240 periods and compare them to the 139K figure you gave in MY04/05. Did Volvo’s market share increase/decrease from decades earlier or remain the same?

            BTW, North American sales peaked in 2007 at around 18 million units IIRC, meaning Volvo peaked three years earlier and has never come back. If Volvo sales had kept up or exceeded industry growth (and thus market share) in the same period, your argument would be much more valid.

            I’m open to multiple models which adds to the brand’s versatility, but you need a strong foundation on which to build. You are certainly entitled to your opinions and these sorts of “where do we go” discussions probably did take place in Gothenburg in the mid 90s, but in 2013 the brand is lost and needs to find its place if it wants to survive. Reviving some of the brand’s traditional values wouldn’t hurt. How many foreign branded “Oldsmobiles” can co-exist in harmony?

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          As a luxury car, the one merit that the Lincoln Town Car had over the others was the fact that it was reliable and easy to repair, mostly.

          With it gone theres a bit of a gap that Volvo could fill with a fancier “260″ line, while offering the new 240 as an AvalonCamry competitor of sorts with styling that would set it apart and make it sell more, just look at how many grey Nissan Jukes sell on style!

          With modern Volvos the closest thing I’ve tried out was a Ford 500, its certainly quicker and more refined than my Volvo 240 but the foot well in the 500 leaves something to be desired, the wheel wells eat into the space a bit. The 500 feels a bit less solid too, but that could just be the Ford in it.

          Really Volvo should go back to being a bit different and stop building “Fluffied up Audis”, if need be build a turbo 240 coupe again to compete with lower-end BMWs, but nothing more.

    • 0 avatar
      smalldog@triad.rr.com

      ah, but this article and most of the responses forget a very important difference between old (pre 850) Volvos and new: RWD vs FWD. Volvo will not go back to”its roots” of rear wheel drive.

  • avatar
    joborras

    I think the biggest problem with this advice is as follows:

    1. “Everyone is going sporty” isn’t accurate. Everyone has gone sporty – and Benz went sporty 20 years ago, frankly, with the launch of the 500E in the W124 body. Since then, there’s been a “hot” version of every Benz, not to mention AMG wheels and bodykits.

    Sporty buyers are early adopters and a big part of the “diffusion of innovations” equation. It makes sense to go after them, especially when so many safety products (ABS, traction control, “road ahead” radar, HUDs, etc.) trickle down from go-fast tech and motorsports.

    Going sporty, for Volvo, feeds their “roots”, attracts new people, and offers something to the trendy people who realize that Benzes and Audis are played out.

    2. As much as I would love – LOVE! – to see a basic, well-built, 240-ish “boxy” Volvo, that ain’t gonna happen. Neither is a new E30. Neither is a new Fox-body Mustang. So, reliable, long-lasting Volvos? Maybe. Light, agile, nondescript sports sedan? Less likely. Cheap, accessible platform for racers to learn to fix, repair, upgrade, and drive simply? If what I heard at Further With Ford is any indication, Bill Ford has his head so far up his ass he thinks we all want to drive iPhones. So ZERO chance of that.

    Volvo’s only hope is to out-BMW BMW, IMO.

    • 0 avatar

      My parents bought an XC60 T6 a couple years ago. Hard to get nostalgic for the wagons of old (which I did own) when you have a 300 horsepower turbocharged I6 and cabin adjustable Ohlins dampers.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      joboarras, I completely disagree.

      I think DeMuro is onto it. Speaking as someone who’s spent a career in branding, one of the universal truths is that you need to stand for one thing in the consumer’s mind. ESPECIALLY when you’re a second-tier brand who’s outgunned in visibility and advertising budgets.

      The cold fact is that Volvo can’t ultimately have it both ways. They can’t be a sporty brand and The Safety Brand. Every sports model they’ve promoted with an ad or commercial was one more of their limited public exposures squandered on something other than reinforcing their brand’s core attribute of safety. You can have a few sporty special editions to satisfy that element of the faithful. But the core models, and even more importantly the promotion of them, has to be on the core trait. And for Volvo, that trait unquestionably is safety.

      • 0 avatar
        964junkie

        Aren’t high levels of safety ubiquitous and taken for granted nowadays? If consumers in Volvo’s segment recognize automotive safety as such, they will not have any reason to buy a Volvo – and sacrificing the performance and reliability advantages offered by Volvo’s competitors in the process – because competitive offerings are thought to be just as safe as Volvos.

      • 0 avatar
        964junkie

        Aren’t high levels of safety ubiquitous and taken for granted nowadays? If consumers in Volvo’s segment recognize automotive safety as such, they will not have any reason to buy a Volvo – as they would have to sacrifice the performance and reliability advantages offered by Volvo’s competitors in the process – because competitors are perceived to be just as safe as Volvos. Thus, Volvo will no longer be able to hang their hat on safety as a differentiating factor – and they really don’t have much else going for them besides a Swed factor and “low-key” private school / country club moms driving XC70s and XC90s.

      • 0 avatar
        CH1

        And I think you’re both wrong.

        There is no way for Volvo to out-BMW BMW and they’re not trying to do so, despite what you might think from the R-Design/Polestar product lines or ads. Safety remains at the top of Volvo’s brand pyramid and it would be stupid to give it up, because Volvo is perceived as the safety leader by a huge margin. (Your personal view might differ, but I’m talking about consumers collectively from hard data.)

        That point is key, tonycd, because it means Volvo doesn’t have to do a tremendous amount of advertising to maintain, let alone build, a safety image. Some brand marketing dollars can be directed elsewhere.

        Brands cannot do well by relying on a single attribute. BMW wouldn’t be nearly as successful were it crappy at most things except sportiness. There are minimum standards for comfort, quality, safety, customer experience, fuel economy, etc., that customers expect of all competitors in the segment. Plus there is a need for a few attributes (in addition to the brand-identifying attribute), where the brand excels.

        Volvo is spending money on sportiness (specifically, driving dynamics, not hp nor something like a M division) because it is perceived by too many consumers as being below the acceptable minimum for the segment. They are not trying to make it a differentiator, let alone the brand identity.

      • 0 avatar
        joborras

        I actually agree with you – I’m just saying that they can offer sporty models that appeal to enthusiasts without diluting that safety image.

        Honestly, I think the trick will be to see if they can re-claim the Safety Brand image without being “the Safe Brand”, which means something totally else. If they had safety commercials with BALLS, like the CEO of the company jamming an XC60 into a wall at 25 mph then looking over his shoulder at a little kid in a child seat going “Again! Again!” that would be something.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      How do you think Volvo could “out-BMW BMW”? BMW is well ahead in image perception for sportiness. As you said everyone is doing sporty nowadays, even Lexus with F-Sport attached to everything but the ES (for now!)

      Their best hope to be like Acura (but with better styling) – reliable, efficient and classy in a classy way. Going the BMW/Mercedes way is too ostentatious for them.

      Edit after seeing Tony’s comment – agreed they can only in the mind of the consumer stand for one thing. That is what has done BMW so much good, Ultimate Driving Machine (whether true or not) has been repeated for ever.
      All manufacturers make play of their safety nowadays so it will be hard for Volvo.

    • 0 avatar

      There was a really interesting book written a number of years ago called “Where the Suckers Moon” about how Subaru launched a big ad campaign in the mid-90′s to try to shed their reputation as a car for granola-eating Vermonters and try to compete with Toyota. It failed miserably. They became successful again later on not by trying to out-Toyota Toyota, but rather by finding and expanding their niche – 4wd cars for the kind of people who have a generous collection of “war is not the answer” bumper stickers.

      Same thing with Volvo. They aren’t going to out-BMW BMW, because nobody can do that, and because the kind of people who want a BMW aren’t going to settle for a Volvo. They need to play to their strengths and heritage, which is going to mean going more after the kind of people who buy Hyndais and Subarus and Priuses (priui?) than the kind of people who buy BMW’s.

      • 0 avatar
        Tostik

        I love Volvos and hate granola. And I believe war is always the answer. Guess I’m not the stereotypical Volvo/Subaru owner. :D

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        I’m from Connecticut and boy do i know how Vermonters love their Subaru’s. It seems every car i see from Vermont here is a Subaru and when i go to Vermont i get attacked by them.

        • 0 avatar
          smalldog@triad.rr.com

          I ran into a real world Subaru / Vermont joke: I flew there for a visit, and my friend said, “I’ll pick you up in the green Subaru”. As I was standing outside the airport and watching three of them, all forest green, go by..

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Volvo’s only hope is to out-BMW BMW, IMO.”

      I have to disagree as the formula may have worked for Cadillac, but I doubt it can be repeated. If they had gone that direction say in MY2000 with the smaller S40/S60 sedans it may have worked, but I think that ship has sailed. Volvo needs to figure out who USED to buy them and who has been buying them since all of the radical changes, and come up with something in-between.

  • avatar

    I had a 240 Once apon a time, drove it till it rusted out and the steering wheel fell off, oh well, I thought that Volvo Cars was now owned by Geely of China?

  • avatar
    thalter

    Volvo is in a tough spot. It is hard to sell safety and reliability when the average vehicle has improved greatly in both regards in the past two decades.

    When the typical vehicle now has 5 star crash ratings, 10 airbags, including knee and seatbelt airbags, back up sensors and cameras, and a whole host of driver aids including traction control, AWD, and stability control, the question becomes how much more safety do you really need?

    Except for the paranoid and hypochondriacs, the average sedan more than meets most people’s perceived safety needs. Not a very large market to be trying to sell on safety.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      This. They used to be 12 steps ahead of everyone in the safety department. Now they’re just on par, with little bells here and there that aren’t so important to anyone (I’m thinking lane change stuff, and cruise control accessories.)

      Their level of luxury is middling, the design has morphed into some god-awful froggy Chinese thing, and they don’t have any big, powerful entries to compete in the lux segment.

      The XC hasn’t been redesigned since I was in middle school, and now I’m in my late 20s. Their interior quality is not up to Lexus standards, yet they want the same entry fee.

      Their TOP-MODEL S80 (looking the same since the 07 slight-do-over of the 99 original) has TONS of optional equipment so you can price it into the $60K region, yet is no bigger or more luxe than a nice A6 (which will give you better AWD, nicer interior, more room, better looks, and a bigger engine.)

      I didn’t even realize they still made the C30. I see them so rarely (and always the original version) that I thought it dropped in 2011 or 2010.

      They don’t bring any big wagons here, their former staple, you have to get the XC SUV or the XC cross-wagon-Outback with cladding.

      No matter what you get, nobody will think you’re in anything special, or anything which costs NEAR as much as you actually paid for it. I’m betting if you showed people a brand new Avalon, and a brand new loaded S80, and said “which is the nicer, more expensive car?” about 85-90% would choose the Avalon.

      • 0 avatar
        salhany

        The XC was just redesigned in 2008. It’s on the P3 platform now.

      • 0 avatar
        ThatkatXY

        Volvo has issues but there interiors aren’t one of them. I test drove a C-Class and an S60 back to back last month. The S60 had the better interior of the two, I haven’t driven a 3-series yet but Ive never been to impressed with BMWs interiors. The S80 had some niggling little flaws when i rented one in 2009 but the one i sat in last year was up to par with anything Lexus offers.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I think you can still sell on safety.

      The parallel I’ll make is reliability. Average reliability has improved tremendously over the last 20 years. As one reader pointed out here last week, the worst new cars now are nearly as reliable as the best ones were then. Yet million still buy Toyotas and avoid (your quality unfavorite brand here) for that reason.

      There are still ways that the safest car is more impressive than an ordinary one, and not just in regard to electronic nannies. Roof strength is one example. Submersion crashes are another. Whether it will even matter in more than a handful of actual crashes is beside the point. The goal is to inflate the issue through your ads and PR so that a lot of people are thinking “Just in case, I’m good.” Which was always Volvo’s raison d’etre in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        I see more difference than similarity.

        Everyone has had to deal with repairs. So has everyone we know. Yeah it’s better than it was but there’s a recent face to go with the name and that face was handing you or someone you know a four figure shop bill.

        In contrast, the US average for 2008 was 1,250,000 road miles between collisions severe enough for an injury claim. Which includes people without seatbelts, two dozen mexicans in a single van, stiff necks that were only reported for the sake of scamming up an insurance settlement, 20 year old cars with no airbags, etc.

        You can’t sell safety to people who have never felt the lack of it.

        • 0 avatar
          Zorak

          I think you can when there is a new member to the family.

          *Anecdotal Evidence ahead*

          My sister-in-law specifically bought a XC90 when she was pregnant because of Volvo’s ‘reputation’ for safety.

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      Of course many car companies claim this mantra, hinting, safe-as-Volvo. But then the IIHS comes out with new tests, like the roof strength test, where Volvo comes-off shining, and other car makes not-so-good. Back to the drawing board/improve roof strength/see, we’re as safe as Volvo again. But uh-oh, here comes the ‘small overlap’ test. Volvo is 100% in ‘good’ ratings again, while most other car companies do awful. Back to the drawing board again. There’s been a lot of crow-eating by companies who claim they are as safe as any other car, meaning, of course, Volvo.

  • avatar
    ktm_525

    Two things:

    1) My 1800E leaks like a sieve (transmission, engine and steering gear box at present).

    2) My former V70R confirmed to me that Volvo can’t do proper sporty suspension tuning. A quick drive of the G8 that replaced the V70R confirmed that..

    I agree that Volvo should back to the 240 shape and RWD. I think they are doomed either way.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    With the NHTSA forcing everyone to recall anything they every made for any reason, having a brand that sells on safety isn’t relevant anymore.

  • avatar
    gkbmini

    The only way to compete with the big boys is to offer something different. My suggestion, all wagon/suv line-up. No sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Innovative.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, you may be on to something here. Volvo seems to have a skill for making wagons, hatches and CUVs (the XC60 and XC90 are/were both very good efforts that did very well for the brand). They need to focus on that. Rather than trying to keep a hand in every category, focus on your core abilities and make them truly excellent by updating them more frequently, especially when their development resources are so limited.

      How many development dollars do you think were spent on the S80? Now, to be fair, those dollars were split with the XC70 but still, it doesn’t do anything for the brand. Ultimately it is those with families who are willing to spend big money (comparatively) on safe, reliable and somewhat upscale cars, which is why stuff like the MDX sells so well. If Volvo can make themselves the goto family car manufacturer, rather than the runner up in a bunch of categories, it will be in a better place.

      Keep the XC60 up to date, get a new XC90 out pronto, and get cracking on a new XC70/V70. The S60 is useful, but any sedan bigger than that isn’t worth Volvo’s time.

      I was very sad the day SAAB died, but I’ll be much more upset if Volvo ever goes away.

    • 0 avatar
      Eric

      Many moons ago, Volvo presented a concept wagon that was bigger than the V70. Me, the Wagon fanatic, loved it. Why not go there? NO other carmaker has made a huge wagon. Has there ever been a Merc S-class wagon, or a Audi A8 wagon, or a Bimmer 7-series wagon? No. I want one. I still say my dream car is an A8 wagon with a 6cyl diesel. That’ll never happen, I know….

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      I had a Volvo 740 to drive for 5 years. Seriously boxy, spacious, minimal damage in an accident. Also, seriously boxy, slow, and expensive to fix. But the competition has grown up, and the Accord/Camry/Altima/Sonata/Fusion set are all larger than that 740.

      I don’t see an easy way out for Volvo, they’re going to have to do something different. In the meantime, V40 Cross Country stateside for not too much money?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “…all wagon/suv line-up. No sedans.”

      I’m picturing an upscale Subaru

  • avatar
    Jesse

    Point #1:

    The 850R isn’t the first time Volvo tried to build excitement. The 240 and 740 turbos of the ’80s were pretty fast and fun. The difference is that Volvo did it right with those cars: they were extremely subtle, which suited their target demographic at the time.

    Point #2:

    I mostly agree with you, however, as the owner of a ’73 1800ES, I can tell you the c30 isn’t the first time they built a hatch with compromised rear seat access (not that you’d want to be back there anyway).

    I love 240s and agree that they should “return to their roots” and build a simple, RWD car. But I’d pick up where they left off with the 940 instead. The 240 platform had many compromises. If they could make something with the styling of a 240, and the durability of the 740/940, it might be a hit. Why not return to RWD and offer RWD-based AWD like Mercedes and BMW?

    • 0 avatar
      ktm_525

      Some good points here. Yes the Volvo 700 series was IMO their best design. That being said I still can’t erase my father’s struggles with his PRV V6 760 from my memory…

      The V70Rs biggest drawbacks was the flinty ride andturning circle of 43′+ . Aomost impossible to live with… If Volvo went back to RWD then we could get some tight turning cars back.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Yes, one of the best features of the 240 was the insanely short turning radius. Our friends were often surprised when we’d reverse direction with a U-turn instead of the expected 3-point turn.

      • 0 avatar
        Jesse

        Every time I make a tight 3-point turn on small Boston street in my 240, I don my fedora, tweed jacket, and smoke my pipe while saying:

        “Ah, yes, see that? Turning radius of a chihuahua.”

        Seriously though, it’s amazing how agile the ol’ girl is.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Modern versions of a P1800 in all its glorious forms, and PV544! Now THAT was a very cool, unique vehicle!

    A buddy owns a 1961 model. I think it even still runs, but he said he hasn’t started it in a year.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The return of the 3-box – I like it. The move back to bricks you can see out of in all directions, including the ends and corners of the car, with ample rear headroom and legroom the Chinese wisely favor, this time with fuel sipping engines, is so crazy, it just might work. There will be articles in TTAC wondering whether Volvo is just going retro, or management has lost its mind, but they’ll sell way more than 68,000 of them.

  • avatar
    fozone

    Concur with above — Volvo, are you listening — BRING BACK THE 240.

    It is a cultural icon in the US, moreso than any subsequent Volvo.

    Give it the New Beetle treatment, but DON’T screw up what made it so good. Which was:

    1) Functional styling (ie, the brick, which led to..)

    2) Awesome visibility — none of this thick A and C pillar BS. And remember: it is supposed to have a space-efficient interior.

    3) Fantastic seats (consider bringing back the hollow headrests — another touchstone of the design

    4) Simplicity. Keep the RWD, use traction control to keep people out of the bushes.

    Is it really so hard? At this point, what do they have to lose? Building a cut-rate BMW isn’t useful.

    • 0 avatar

      Arguably that’s what a base V70 is still, minus RWD. It has 1, 2, and 3, with a bit less of 4.

      Minirant: RWD doesn’t make ANY sense for a family car, at all. Can we just get past this? It’s not really that simple, and any performance gains it might bring are totally unimportant to buyers in the segment. It also makes the car unnecessarily difficult (if not impossible) to drive in winter, and doesn’t make any sense when Volvo uses exclusively FWD platforms. Honestly.

      • 0 avatar
        smartascii

        From a functional standpoint, FWD makes sense. But name me a successful luxury brand that’s largely FWD. The fact of the matter is that all of these people who laud RWD handling characteristics are on to something that can be felt by your average driver, even if it can’t be identified. The complete lack of torque steer, the sensation of power delivery, and the quality steering feel that can easily be accomplished when all the front wheels have to do is steer; all this feels like luxury, even to people who could care less about 0-60 times. It’s a fallacy to assume that world-class performance and handling go unappreciated by people who aren’t enthusiasts.

        As for What Volvo Should Do, well, if they’d build a car that drives European and owns Japanese, they’d have their own little competition-free corner of the market.

        • 0 avatar
          fredtal

          Audi is FWD until the power gets a bit much then it’s AWD. Most luxury car buyers want more hp than FWD can handle, that is why they are RWD and not FWD. I doubt half of these owners can tell the difference.

          • 0 avatar
            JD23

            “Audi is FWD until the power gets a bit much then it’s AWD.”

            That’s not true of current Audis riding on the current B8 platform (A4, A5, S4, etc.). They send power 40/60 F/R in normal conditions, so the car is full-time AWD and is not primarily FWD unless traction is compromised for the rear axle. In fact, it’s not true of any current Audis using a Torsen based AWD system, which is everything except the A3, TT and R8.

          • 0 avatar
            fredtal

            @JD23 You can buy a A4 at least in 2wd only

          • 0 avatar
            JD23

            You’re correct, there is a FWD/CVT version that I generally ignore. However, if we are discussing the quattro version, it is a full-time AWD system with a rear bias, not a part-time system.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m not saying there isn’t value in RWD, I’m just saying that it doesn’t make any sense within the context of what fozone is suggesting. A replacement for the simple and basic 240? Fine. But RWD is not the “simple and basic” type of powertrain of today. It’s the powertrain you use if a) you don’t already have FWD with a capable AWD system a la Audi and b) dynamics are so important/the amount of power so great that you simply must use it. Neither of these is the case for Volvo.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Mercedes solves that problem with 4 Matic and BMW X Drive for people who buy those models for family hauling.

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, because they realized that people weren’t choosing their RWD cars because they weren’t as good as FWD cars in snow. BMW and MB have (largely) stuck with RWD because it’s a core attribute of their performance/luxury image, an image which doesn’t in the least apply to Volvo.

          Volvo’s image is safety, security, longevity, and quality. None of that has anything to do with RWD, and in fact RWD could be construed as failing on the safety and security points compared to FWD. Judging from your previous comments, you seem to relate “RWD” with the ability to take punishment and be reliable/durable, but that is a pretty false correlation.

          The 240 was reliable because it was really really simple. A lot less to break. Yes it also happened to be RWD, but that was only because at the time RWD was quite a bit more common and FWD was a relatively new platform choice.

          Fast-forward 40 years and you find that all of Volvo’s current development is focussed on FWD/AWD platforms, logically. They are efficient and a totally reasonable solution for most people, and also used by quite a bit of Volvo’s direct competition (Buick, Volkswagen, Acura, Lexus, Lincoln). Add in aforementioned facts about most Volvo drivers not caring that much about driving and it’s a total waste of development dollars.

          There aren’t going to be throngs of buyers because the specs say RWD, nor will be anyone except some car reviewers care that your 240 replacement feels just that much better in a hairpin.

  • avatar
    lando

    Volvo isn’t going anywhere because it is a market entry point for the Chinese. And I am pretty sure the “marketing strategy” is going to be price point based. We will see about the quality.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    We wouldn’t even be having this conversation had Volvo stuck with RWD. They’d likely be in a much better position right now instead of hanging out with Acura on the sales charts.

    Volvo is hanging on for dear life and there’s not much to hang onto, Chinese bankroll be damned, I don’t see them surviving another 10 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      “We wouldn’t even be having this conversation had Volvo stuck with RWD.”

      Or if they’d had a major redesign on the XC90, say, in 2010, but they were at the mercy of the Ford bean counters. Geeley is letting Volvo fly, and everything is being redesigned, more or less.

  • avatar
    nvdw

    Volvo should build cars for actual people, not the people that only exist in the realms of spreadsheets and flip charts.

    I don’t care whether a Volvo is boxy or not, or even RWD. What I do care about is having to do with less interior space or not being able to look out the windows because some designer went crazy on useless curves and creases.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I just heard on NPR this morning that some guy broke THREE MILLION miles on his 1966 P1800. A story like that could singlehandedly help re-brand them as the car of safety AND longevity, sort of like Mercedes in the 1970s and 80s.

    If you’re going to keep charging BMW and Audi prices for cars that don’t have commensurate content, you’re going to be relegated to just the existing fanbois unless you do something different.

    When I was selling cars in the early 2000s, everyone from the warranty companies to our maintenance people had the same general opinion: “Volvos are the cars with all the flimsy, extremely expensive parts, which people trade in after they get sick of spending $200 to fix an ashtray lid” (etc)

    Simplify the interiors, focus on those amazing seats (if sold at home, they’d be $1500 Ekornes chairs), and sell us something that is built to last. And if that means giving up on turbo engines, that’s fine with me. Lose a couple mpg and sell a car that will go hundreds of thousands of miles with no major work. Become the Honda of European marques. Then maybe more people will pay your bloated sticker prices.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      That is the extent of their current ad campaign. What they don’t tell you is that when he it 2 million miles they gave him a new Volvo. He didn’t drive it he kept driving his P1800 for another million miles.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Given the general misguided turbo obsession of late, I would love to see one of the original “turbo brands” drop it and go NA.

      “Lose a couple mpg and sell a car that will go hundreds of thousands of miles with no major work. Become the Honda of European marques. Then maybe more people will pay your bloated sticker prices.”

      Exactly.

    • 0 avatar
      jadnhm

      Just thought I’d point out that turbo’d engines have not been a reliability problem for modern (like, post 1990?) Volvos. Indeed, I think this holds for most manufacturers.

      Volvo’s FWD era has many many cars that are well over a decade old and over 200k miles, still on the original turbo (I have one!). I have to assume the newer turbos are even better. They’re a little harder on oil, true, but oil is getting better all the time too.

      They /are/ more expensive though…

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      More than one reviewer has put the S60 ahead of the Audi A4 in driving dynamics, and some say the S60 is closing in on the BMW 3 series. And Volvos are less expensive than these German brands.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Those are obviously reviewers who have never actually DRIVEN a 3-series.

        Volvo is in the same bind as Acura. They don’t have the chops to get their asking price, and the non-premium brands are just as good. There just is not enough special about an S60 to justify the price increment over an Optima or a Passat. Or a Malibu for that matter. I’ve had enough of the things as rental cars – completely and utterly NOT special cars in any way. At least they have allegedly smartened up and are bringing back the proper wagons. And lest anyone think I am not a Volvo fan, I’ve owned more than a dozen of them, 2s/7s/9s. Great cars back in the day, but when they went FWD they lost the plot. Saab always did that so much better, despite GMs bungling.

        And as to all the crowing about safety, Mercedes-Benz was ALWAYS far, far, far ahead of Volvo in car safety, both researched and applied. And so was Saab.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          I was thinking Acura-itis also. Even though Volvo has more to off in power plants and drivetrains, they seemed limited and pricey unless you like the brand.

          Volvo is doubling Saab sales comparing the last few years:

          http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2012/10/volvo-brand-sales-figures-usa-canada.html

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Tostik

            I own a 328i, and have spent the best part of six weeks behind the wheel of sundry rented S60s in the past couple years. I think I have a pretty fair basis of comparison. The S60 doesn’t begin to compete with the BMW. The S60 would compete quite well with a loaded Optima if it weren’t $10K more expensive and rather cramped inside. I’d also much rather have a Passat over an S60, and again save the best part of $10K. I’ve spent 4-5 weeks driving those too. How much time do magazine reviewers spend with a car? A week? Maybe?

        • 0 avatar
          Tostik

          Former professional race car driver and host of the BBC’s ’5th Gear’ show, Tiff Needle is one of the reviewers who put the S60 ahead of the Audi A4, and near the BMW 3-series. And a Motor Trend article did the same thing. See address below;

          http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1205_sport_luxury_sedan_comparison/viewall.html#comment

          For those of you that say that Volvo can’t compete with Audi and BMW, you need to keep up.

          • 0 avatar
            Tostik

            @krhodes1

            I confess to never having driven either an Audi A4, or a BMW 3-series, but there are some very credible professional drivers, like Tiff Needle, not run-of-the-mill reviewers, who are saying the S60 is ahead of the A-4, and is approaching the BMW 3 in driving dynamics. And the S60 is getting a lot of improvements lately, not to mention the S60 is selling very well for Volvo, and is one of the bright stars in the Volvo line-up. But I respect your opinion (more than I know from my own experience), but I also respect Tiff’s opinion.

        • 0 avatar
          Tostik

          Just one question, out of curiosity, did your S60 rentals have the T6 engine with AWD, or was it a T5 with FWD? The T6, of course, is faster off the line, and AWD gives better driving dynamics.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The rentals were all T5 FWD models. Hertz has mostly the up-level trim package cars, though without navigation (they bolt on their own horrid device). If you need AWD to sharpen the drive, then there is something flawed with the basic package, IMHO. The US-spec front driver drives pretty much like a Camry. Now as Jack has shown us, a Camry can be flogged around a racetrack, but that doesn’t make it fun.

            One thing to keep in mind when viewing/reading European reviews – the cars tend to have different suspension tuning over there than over here. The Germans seem not to play that game, but the Swedes definitely do. And the Japanese REALLY do. Typically a much firmer setup on the other side of the pond.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Totally, correct and very funny, Mr. DeMuro!

    Volvo is set up to grow greatly as self driving tech grows. The desire for sportiness will disappear as most people start letting the car do more on its own. They will want safety and comfort and reliability.

    Competencies:
    1. Automation – Volvo is at the top currently.
    2. Comfort – You can only get more comfortable seats other than Volvo by paying thousands in upgrades.
    3. Safety – if you are not driving you instinctively want more safety because your ego has been assuring you of your expert driving skills in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

    Challenges:
    1. Dependability – No one trusts the autopilot if the tire pressure sensors always fail. Even if George (pilots often call the AP George) can be trusted to yell for help before failing, if you think it’s going to fail a lot you won’t pay for it.
    2. Interfaces – they need to win the interface wars to seal the deal and they aren’t in the lead.

    Given a very highly educated work force they should be able to engineer and build in more reliability. The inline 6 is solid, but the gadgets are cut rate. Besides, diesel fours are the likely winners for auto cars.

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    I drive a ’96 Volvo 850R and fit Volvo’s demographic pretty well – professional, want something classy that performs well, likes to keep the family safe, willing to get something a little different. When I think about replacing the 850 and look at the current lineup, I’m kind of at a loss. The sedans are okay — the S60 is attractive and performs well, but has a pretty tight backseat. The XC70 is a bloated version of its former self and the XC60, while sexy in shape, can cost a whole lot of coin very quickly. The models may look swoopier, but lots of other makes do swoopy very well too (and maybe better).

    Volvo isn’t BMW or Mercedes and can’t command their price premium. It can and should compete with the other more luxury makers base don its long standing roots – luxury with sanity. That means, yes, reintroducing the wagons that were at the core of their brand loyalty 15-20 years ago. Make them in a variety of styles and with different equipment, but with the same overall more boxy styling riff that made them distinctive.

    I want to consider a Volvo when the 850 (at well over 200K miles) finally says goodbye. Right now, nothing they offer gives me the same unassuming quality of practicality and fun (and visibility, frankly).

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Every time I see a Volvo, I can’t help but to remember its now Chinese owned.

  • avatar
    ktm_525

    Return to the 7 series but this time with no PRV V6!

    Volvo commercial Pure 80′s awesomeness:

    search you tube for Volvo 740 rolling commercial and rawhide. Some good 80s hooning.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    I’d love it if Volvo used their questionable safety tech as a halo item similar to giant engines in other brands. Advertise it, but have bare-bones models available without it that cost substantially less.
    How they can’t make a sensibly refined crossover, free of offroad pretensions, to eat every Venza/Crosstour/Forester/Murano sale is curious.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Thought I’d share a nice little piece from back in March (during the Geneva show) about one thing I think Volvo is doing just fine with: its design:

    http://jalopnik.com/volvo-is-the-calm-little-center-of-the-universe-451314955

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I was present when Volvo “took off” as a foreign car in America, around 1969-1973. The 144S was Volvo’s first volume seller in the U.S. and, unlike the model that preceded it, looked like a modern car. My father bought one, new in 1970, after having owned a succession of full-sized Chevrolets, beginning in 1957. The Volvo offered a sober, serious and substantial car to those folks who couldn’t afford the more expensive (and more technologically sophisticated) Mercedes. The car drove — and stopped — well and carried 4 people very comfortably. It was apparently sturdy in its construction; and it offered the promise of longevity and dependability. Volvo used to feature million-mile cars and their owners in advertisements. And it was one of the few cars that came standard with effective, easy-to-use, 3-point lap/shoulder belts.

    Like all foreign cars of the “malaise” era, Volvo had trouble mastering the three problems of emissions control, Americans’ demand for air conditioning and Americans’ demand for automatic transmissions. A friend of mine in law school in the mid-1970s had a new 240 that was much more troublesome than my dad’s 144S, which ran forever. He was envious of the reliability of my Mazda RX-2 rotary. The performance of the 4-cylinder European cars of the day was seriously degraded by their automatic transmissions (usually 3-speed) and also by the air conditioning, which sapped the limited engine torque.

    The next big blow to Volvo was the company’s decision (presumably for packaging and weight issues) to move the a transverse engine/FWD platform after the 700 and 900 series, the last of the RWD cars. My father’s final Volvo was one of those, and it was seriously unreliable and, although somewhat more luxuriously fitted out than his 3 previous Volvos, always struck me as less comfortable, partly because of the stiff, unyielding suspension.

    Perhaps there still is a market for a not over-styled (I’m looking at you, Japan and Korea) sedan (and station wagon) that embodies the traditional “European car” virtues of competent (but not “sporty”) handling, adequate performance, comfort and quality in a reliable package. The big question is whether Volvo (or any other European manufacturer that builds its cars in Europe) can deliver all that for a reasonable price.

    Without the scale economies of a larger company, I’m not sure that’s possible building cars in a high-cost market like Sweden.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    It’s not the type of cars they make it is how to make and develop them AND make money. Work on that and make good cars, customers will come.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    I’d sure like to see the return of a clean, upright VOLVO design: Elegant simplicity, thin pillars, without pinched greehouses, without rising beltlines, without drooping noses.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    By the way Mr. DeMuro, you seem to have quite a knack at picking interesting discussion topics if the past two weeks or so is any indication. Keep up the good work.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Volvo has been 100% owned by Geely since 2010. In 2012 they sold 10% of their output in China and 16% in the USA. Their current plan is to double today’s company output and to increase Chinese sales by a factor of four. Lotsa luck achieving that ambitious goal, but it does point to a particular direction.

    In China, Volvo has had almost no luck going head to head with the German luxury brands. Trying to out BMW BMW et.al. is not in the cards. Getting sporty doesn’t make much sense on back country Chinese roads. Going back to its rugged, well-built, well-engineered roots seems the natural choice. Any room for Volvo in the higher end China car market is likely going to be in the west.

    Gotta love them Swedes. Good luck.

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      The S60 is one of the badly needed shining stars for Volvo. It’s selling like hotcakes, and some would say it’s the Volvo that competes most with BMW. And sales in China are up 34% in the first six months of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012. And the Volvo factory in China hasn’t even got going yet (but it has started test production).

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Since Subaru’s been banned from building a factory in China (because of Toyota’s relatively large stake in it) Volvo can try to occupy that a slightly more premium Outback/Forester kinda niche with their XC series. Honestly, while a lot of people like their interiors, I think the interiors are what’s really holding the cars back. They might look unique and Swedish but for the kind of money that they’re asking for the competition tends to provide plain nicer looking interiors.

      Make the interiors more conventionally luxurious (i.e. more or less steal the new BMW or Lexus interiors), keep up with the safety tech advancements (and advertise this heavily in China), leverage Geely’s relatively low cost Chinese manufacturing base, and dominate that Subaruesque niche before it’s too late.

      I still think they have a lot of potential but it’s gonna be a tough fight. They also really need to finish modernizing their motor lineup to bring newer tech like DI to the larger motors, the new 4-cylinders are a good start though.

      • 0 avatar
        Tostik

        Subaru’s big problem in China, like every other Japanese brand, is World War II. The Chinese are still mad about the Japanese invasion. This problem is aggravated when there’s a confrontation over those disputed, uninhabited islands in the Western Pacific. Japanese car sales in China crash when that happens. Meanwhile, Volvos are starting to catch on in China, up 34% this year, and the new factory is not yet in full production. Subarus are selling great in the US, but it’s got a big monkey on it’s back in China.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    Disagree on one and a half counts. First of all, Volvo for a long time now had an “R” version of their mid-size cars. They also had V8 XC90 that wasn’t “R” in the name, but was definitely “R” in the spirit. So there is always a place in Volvo stable for a moderately fun version of an otherwise pretty mundane wagon. There is also room for S80, as long as it’s rear-wheel drive. 960/S90 were moderately successful, so there’s no reason S80 shouldn’t. But when you build front wheel drive S80 that has all the handling of a 10 year old Buick and mate it with engine that barely gets 24MPG on the highway, it’s not a recipe for success.

    Secondly, Volvo had been producing weird hatchbacks for a while (see 1800S), so C30 is nothing new. Where i do think Volvo needs to go back to their roots, is in the engine department. Enough already with the those pigs of an I6 they’re stuffing in S80s. Develop more 4-5 cylinder engines, make them bulletproof reliability-wise. Mate them with manual transmission, as well as with decent automatic, and the sales will start ticking up.

    Volvo is NOT a luxury brand; they are a premium brand. As such, there’s nothing wrong with having S80 type car in your stable, however, there should also be a room for base (fabric interior, manual transmission, etc) S60/V60.

    As a current 2004 V70 (non-turbo) owner, what i like in Volvos, is that unlike more pedestrian cars they are not disposable cars. You can still buy brand new OEM parts for Volvo that was made back in 70s. Last week i purchased a battery door (!) for my remote lock. On contrast, I’d have to pay $120 for new key for my Infiniti G35 as those are not available separately from the dealer. Suspension bushings are still sold separately; you’ll need to buy whole components with bushings in them if you needed to replace them in your run of the mill asian sedan… Here’s hoping Volvo can right the ship and get back to success in US, because i really don’t want to see them go….

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Here’s Volvo’s problem: A midsized car like the Hyundai Sonata GLS with popular equipment practice (alloys, heated seats, more), 200 horsepower direct-injected engine, all of the traditional Volvo safety features, and 35 MPG highway has a Truecar price of $19,776. Sedans are competitive at every dollar point, and for $30,000 you have your choice of cars with luxury interior, electronic everything. 0-60 in the 6 second range and over 30 MPG highway. If you pay more than $30k, you can get a brand that has more prestige than Volvo.

    • 0 avatar
      fozone

      Sedans are — Wagons are not. Subaru has made an entire company out of pushing wagons for people who realize oversized SUVs are ridiculous. And are becoming associated with the dreaded hausfrau segment that had tarnished minivans before them.

      I’d like to see Volvo get back to their professorial roots and release an updated 144 or 240 wagon an companion sedan. If they have any positive brand equity remaining (and i’m not sure they do) it is tied up in those two models.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        “Subaru has made an entire company out of pushing wagons for people who realize oversized SUVs are ridiculous.” Yes, but the customers they’re (successfully) chasing now are not the ones who bought their older products (i.e., those with frameless door glass, primarily) but consider today’s Outback and Forester wagons just too darn tall.

        The Legacy wagon and its DL/GL predecessors were the cars that gave Subaru its wagon reputation, but the Outback variant was so popular and profitable that the Legacy wagon – in my view a perfect blend of practical station wagon and engaging car to drive (with the 5-speed), despite the smallish rear seat – got squeezed out after nearly a 20-year run of essentially the same design and proportions.

        If Subaru, as successful as it’s become in the U.S. (where the Legacy/Outback has been made for 20+ years), can’t make a go of it with a not-tall wagon, how could Volvo with its smaller resources succeed in the same segment?

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      I think I see your point, but I am not sure. What are you comparing to a Sonata? What’s the comparable cost? And then what’s the more prestigious version from someone else?

      • 0 avatar
        Conslaw

        What I’m suggesting is that the attributes that Volvo has traditionally sold are being delivered at a lower cost by other makers. For under $20k the Sonata has stability control, traction control, side curtain airbags, active head restraints, seatbelt pretentioners, all the things people paid extra to get on a Volvo. It goes 0-60 in under 8 seconds even with the 4 cylinder, and it has a better warranty than Volvo. For all this, the Sonata is basically mid-pack in its segment. Pay a little more and you can get the Honda Accord with similar attributes and more of a “quality” reputation. The low end has gotten so good that mid-tier brands like Acura (and Volvo) are being squeezed .

    • 0 avatar
      andyinatl

      Sonata is a decent car, no doubt, but compared to any of the established brands it still feels half-baked. Handling still has has its niggles, ride becomes unsettled over washboard or other challenging surfaces, and overall it still feels like Hyundai, i.e. cheap car gussied up by over-styling and gimmickry. I’ve had a chance to sit in one at last auto show here in Atlanta, and when closing the rear door, there was interesting rattle from the sheetmetal (yes, it looked like they designed rear door too long without attaching sheetmetal to some kind of structure beneath). The leather interior felt like “pleather” or worse; the texture felt like playdoh or crayon. It did look nice though, as long as you didn’t sit in it or touched it.

      The problem with mass brands is they are focused on price too much, in interest of selling most possible cars. When you move up to premium brands (one can argue trucks are made to more premium standards, as you not going to see steering wheels/interior wearing off before 150K miles in trucks), while selling a lot of cars is still important, it becomes equally important how the car “fits” a person. I’ve had some mass-brand produced cars (Mazda CX-7, Chevy HHR, Honda Accord), but after i tried my first premium car, i couldn’t go back to tin foil backed taillamps, hard, scratchable plastic inside the car, and parts that you have to buy in packages, because nobody bothers to make little bits separately.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        Hyundai has been selling cars in the US for 27 years, offers the best warranty around, and is very profitable. Hyundai/Kia combined ranks #6 or so in US auto sales volume.

        What should they do to become an ‘established brand’?

        • 0 avatar
          andyinatl

          They’ve only been relevant for past decade at most. Before then, they were on par with Yugo. Also, they only became competitive with their latest generation of models, whereas prior to that they were at most, compliant with NHTSA regulations, and that’s it. I have made a mistake back in 1995 of getting a 1992 Excel; Ladas were WAAAAY better than that thing (30K miles was announced by a glorious oil leak and falling off glovebox). I do see that with each generation since then they’ve made progress, but right now they are at best where Honda/Toyota was 10 years ago engineering wise.

          • 0 avatar
            J.Emerson

            “but right now they are at best where Honda/Toyota was 10 years ago engineering wise.”

            How? A 2013 Sonata is safer, more fuel-efficient, more comfortable, more luxurious, and more durable than either a 2003 Accord or Camry. It meets or exceeds the 2013 Accord or Camry in many areas. Don’t take it from me; take it from the people who are buying Hyundai’s cars in mass quantities.

            Honda, Toyota, and Nissan’s early forays into the American market were all cheap crap too, no better than the Excel of which you speak. But we all know how that story played out in the end.

  • avatar

    I agree that Volvo needs to rediscover itself. They should focus on / emphasize the following:

    1. Safety – While there’s been an industry-wide shift toward much safer cars, there’s still room for differentiation. In particular, the IIHS’ new small-offset test has clearly shown that not all models are built to the same standard.

    2. Elegant style / Swedishness – Scandinavian furniture is well known for its clean, elegant design. Volvo’s designs certainly aren’t made, but they should play up their Swedish roots further. The interiors in particular (where’s wood and leather) offer a great opportunity for this. I know B&O had done some work with their stereos, but it should be all over the interior.

    3. Regain reliability – This is something old Volvos were know for, but as they’re implemented new tech, they’ve let down their guard.

    4. Ride Quality – As they’ve moved to sporty cars with taut suspensions and low-profile tires, ride quality has suffered (as it has for just about every manufacturer). I would suggest tuning back “sportiness” in most models to a classic Jaguar tradeoff. That being said, they need not abandon sporty models entirely. Sporty models offer good margins because the go-fast bits don’t cost the manufacturer nearly as much as they charge for them. That being said, I do not think they need to emphasize the performance.

  • avatar
    WhatDaFunk

    WRONG! Saab is (was) my favorite Swedish brand, not Volvo.

  • avatar
    typhoon

    I don’t think Volvo can succeed by chasing BMW; there’s already Cadillac, Infiniti, and let’s face it, Audi and Mercedes-Benz for that. How are they doing compared to Buick? I don’t know the figures, but it seems like I see a lot more new Veranos and Encores than Volvos, and I think their best chance is to replicate Buick’s successes. That is, focus on interior quality and comfort over performance and sportiness, and develop some competitive crossovers and market them well.

    I don’t think they can realistically transition their line-up back to RWD now, even if they wanted, and I doubt their target audience would know or care if they did. And while I’m a fan of their sedans and would like to keep seeing them, the reality of the American market is that you need crossovers if you want to sell in any kind of volume. I remember Alex Dykes was quite happy with the XC60 R-Design Polestar (whatever all that means) he reviewed, so it seems they can make the product but can’t market it successfully.

    One thing Volvo has going for it is that it’s still a respected brand, so at least they have that to start with.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I don’t know Volvo’s storied history, and I don’t care. I wouldn’t buy a car from them for that reason.

    However, from a distance I really like the S60 T6, but nothing else. The transverse turbo I-6 has a lot of appeal to me, as does the beautiful exterior. But as far as I’m concerned, Volvo is a one-trick pony that needs something else to distinguish itself in the market.

  • avatar
    tariqv

    I am a die hard volvo fan and it is pretty sad seing them mentioned in the realm as Mitsubishi (no offense). However, unfortunately there is truth in what is being said, and I do agree with some of the comments.

    First of all, chasing BMW is a no-no as volvo not only does not have the know-how to outgun them, nor the platform, besides this move would aleniate the loyalists as they would drift away from their understated, sensible image. So one thing is for sure IMHO, volvo should keep its core values and extend and improve upon them. They could do this while trying to sort out their ride & handling, as this deficiency is deterring many buyers who are looking for a nice premium brand with decent handling.

    Right after handling comes practicality, which has taken a few steps backwards in a bid to gain style and image. I believe they have indeed gained a lot during the last decade or so in style however this has come at a significant cost of practicality. For example the trunk of modern volvos are all tiny, even the v70 has one of the smallest trunks within its segment. They have to improve upon this and the interior space offered-especially back- without compromising on their new found stylishness. In fact they should concentrate on their standard sedans, and enter the crossover markets ala audi a5, cls with seperate models derived from their sedans.
    In addition they should continue to concentrate on building one of the best interiors and quality craftmanships in the business, with a bit of extra attention to detail maybe.
    Finally, drivetrain technology is a crucial decision factor nowadays, and with the arrival of the new VEA engines and SPA platform which hopefully will be state of the art, they should be safe.

    To conclude I believe volvo is on the right path, but they need to remember that style alone is not enough, they should concentrate more on the practicality of their cars, and choose the right new models to build, and swiftly.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Maybe they can ask Lincoln how to get to 80K sales per year in the US.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    The problem with “sporty” Volvos is that aside from the RWD models, most sport Volvos were underwhelming compared to the sports cars they competed with. Being front-heavy FFs didn’t help.

    I would suggest that they bring something back akin to the 240, they were some of Volvos top selling cars of the day to the point that their initial deadline was extended into ’93.

    A 4×4 crossover version of a 240 wagon would sell pretty well too, something more mainstream with much space and “squareness” that would suite the Scion crowd well. While they could sell a turbo-charged coupe to compete with FRS’s and other sports cars.

    Lets not forget they’d make fine fleet cars too, I remember a number of states in the 80′s using 240′s with good success.

    Really something like the 240 could be brought back and it’d work well in the market.

    But why the 200 over the 900 series? Because the 200 series sold much better.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I loved our ’98 S70. Solid little slow tank with great seats and tremendous sight lines. The reliability killed that love with needing $10k in repairs at 70k miles. Perhaps we were spoiled pre- and post-Volvo by our Japanese cars.

    Volvo should return to block styling with rounded corners. Their interiors are generally decent quality (especially those seats!!!), but I’m not a big fan of the Swedish dash design (Acura makes the perfect dash design IMO).

    I test drove the XC70 this last go around and really liked it (except for the dash) despite it’s ancient chassis. I also think the XC90 is a classy design. But our past experience with Volvo reliability took me to the Japaanese once again.

    Perhaps they can get their reliabilty house in order, not worry about exterior styling, and go after the premium Subaru market? Perhaps work the hybrid/diesel angle?

    Chasing BMW and Lexus is not their salvation.

    I’d hate to see them slip away….

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the S70. I spent the better part of my teenage years behind the wheel of 3 RWD Volvos, and I was weary of FWD replacement, but my ’99 has over 200k and people are still impressed with how nicely it drives. The body is still largely rust free, which is a feat considering it survived 14 Canadian winters. 850/S/V70 were the models that Volvo conceived as a replacement for the 240. IMHO, size, driving position and cabin layout is more reminiscent of the 240 than the later 700/900 series. The turning circle is only a foot larger than the 240. There is a perception that the 850s models (especially the turbos) were problematic in comparison to their simpler 240 predecessors, but my non-turbo S70 has served me well and never left me stranded… it’s actually given me less trouble that the RWD models.

      I’ll make a gross generalization that over the past decade, Volvo pursued their Teutonic competitors while Subaru scooped up a sizeable chunk of their clientele. Volvo does have an opportunity to develop rugged, slightly upscale vehicles for the Chinese countryside as Subaru struggles to gain a foothold in that country. Perhaps this will be Volvo’s route to differentiate it from the other Euro near-luxury brands -going back to a more durable/utilitarian design philosophy, maintaining supremacy over active and passive safety, and emphasizing practical and spacious interiors sounds marketable. The marque is still respected and has just enough snob appeal to hold its own against Lexus, Audi, BMW and MB. Owning one shows that you’ve still got class, but you belong to a pragmatic niche market.

      • 0 avatar
        jadnhm

        Excellent points man.

        “going back to a more durable/utilitarian design philosophy…” couldn’t have said it better.

        Also totally agree that they need to grab the market away from Subie in China while they have the chance, and then use the cash to ramp up elsewhere.China is the near term goal for them, though they need to be mindful not to give up too much in Europe which would kill their image.

        A steady stream of new products and refreshes will be necessary to pull people back in. Hopefully Geely is willing to invest on that scale.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        I need to respectfully disagree about the ’98 S70- I owned one for about 130,000 miles. It was comfortable and I liked the way it drove (had a 142 and a 244 prior to it).

        What I didn’t like was a lot of really dumb little things that made for an aggravating ownership experience:

        -My car had the redesigned timing belt tensioner (greatly simplified over the earlier, needlessly complicated hydraulic one on the 850). OK, so I liked this point… but what was the deal with the original design on the 850s?!?
        -The rear door lock nubs on the 850 were near the door hinges… so that people in the front seat (like, oh, the driver) could easily unlock the rear doors if/when the expensive and fragile power door lock units failed. But on my S70, these nubs were seat way at the back, out of easy reach of the driver (probably saved Volvo a $0.29 metal rod). Grrr.
        -The front hubs were a replaceable assembly, about $250 as I recall, when my front/right wheel bearing went bad (what should have been a $25-50 wheel bearing).
        -Front seat upholstry (cloth) about half as durable as my 240 (cloth)- tears at 100,000 miles (vs no tears at 200,000 in the 240).
        -Brake system quietly redesigned as a both front wheel/both rear wheel split (not diagonal as on the 850 and 740, and the admittedly ridiculous “dual-triangular” 140/240 design was long gone). Old school Volvo owners used to care about this sort of thing…
        -Proprietary service reminder light reset electronic tool (rectified by a piece of black tape covering said idiot light). Not the OBD2 light, the “time to change your oil” light.
        -Very peculiar problem with the fusebox- the fuel pump/ignition (single fuse for both) would not blow but it would get so hot that it would deform and cause a no-start. I finally figured out that the fuse holder wasn’t making good contact with the fuse contacts (ie. cheap, low quality fuse box).
        -Dashboard squeaks, especially on hot days and with less than half full fuel tank (weird, the car must vibrate differently). I tracked this down to loose bolts holding the dashboard assembly to the firewall.
        -That dumb power antenna!

        The 240 had designed-in weirdness but IMHO the S70 had designed-in cheapness. Not frugality or inexpensiveness but cheapness.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    “Return to the land of durable and safe, and you’ll find shoppers who want the same.”

    The problem is that while durable and safe used to be a strong selling point, it is now the absolute bare minimum acceptable.

    Durable and safe would be a completely legitimate slogan for Dacia.

    Despite the Chinese ownership Volvo is still developing and manufacturing its cars in Sweeden, and on top of that Volvo does not have a lot of sales to amortize its development costs across. Unless Volvo shifts development and manufacturing to China it is going to be stuck selling its cars at a premium. And Volvos will need to be more than just durable and safe to justify that premium.

    Right now my favorite Sweedish brand is Scania.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    A few things:

    For Pete’s sake redesign the XC90. It has the potential to be class competitive, with a one piece liftgate. Return the V8 option, that was a major selling point.

    The XC70 is a nice car, but its millage is so terrible for what it is. One suffers no millage penalty by going to a 4×4 Tahoe, or no price penalty for that matter.

    Lower some of the prices. While Volvo is a premium brand, it should be targeting Buick and Acura than going head to head with Audi, BMW, etc.

    If Volvo wants to survive, they need to go after the SUV/CUV market, that’s where the market is, like it or not.

  • avatar
    etho1416

    All the folks above who claim that other cars are as safe as volvos (a Sonata, really?) have not done their homework. Google around and look at the amount and variety of high strength steel volvo uses in their cars. Way more than just about any other brand. They also put pre-tensioning seat belts in the rear seats not just the front (which almost no on else does. And the new small overlap test that they have aced is something they have been designing their cars to survive since the late 90s. Volvo designs just about everything in the engine compartment thinking of how is will react in a crash. Other car companies “teach to the test” in terms of passing the IIHS and NHTSA test while volvo goes way beyond the tests. I am sure a Sonata would implode if crash tested just 5 mph above the level set by the IIHS. A volvo, not so much.

    Of course I say all this but do not own a volvo since they are too damn expensive both up front and in terms of repair costs. And I worry that Chinese ownership will eventually ruin them.

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      Dead on Etho. Volvo has boron steel in their XC90s and XC60s, which is many times stronger than ultra-high strength steel. Seems like a lot of posters here have just uncritically accepted the safety propaganda of other car companies. The surprise ‘small overlap crash test’ is one of many arguments that proves Volvo’s point, and it just seems to be ignored by many who post here.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I remember reading that one of their XCs failed the 5 mph test, but I can’t remember which one it was, it was probably just that plastic cladding breaking up.

        Then again its surprising how many modern cars don’t pass what is a fairly basic test thats been around for decades.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Yep. It seemed the safety gap had really closed up, but then the new tests came out and good ole Volvo caught the others napping

    • 0 avatar

      The problem is that Volvo either isn’t or simply can’t capitalize on these differences. They end up spending a lot of money on things that people can’t see on the surface, and then don’t tell their potential customers why they have to pay comparatively more money for a car that looks to be the same as everything else on the road (materials wise, not necessarily design wise).

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Volvo drivers are unhappy.

    Market to that.

    “A majority of owners of Volvo owners reported they were unhappy drivers.”

    http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/huh-ferrari-owners-hate-driving-honda-drivers-love-article-1.1294418#ixzz2aT4mkVPs

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Less than half of Volvo drivers – just 46 percent – reported that driving made them happy. In fact, 20 percent of all Volvo drivers saw driving as just another way of getting to their destination.”

      So Volvo has become the most appliance like in Europe?

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      Volvo overtakes Mercedes in German customer satisfaction study

      http://www.autonews.com/article/20110621/ANE/110629996#ixzz2aTRJE45G

      This survey is less than 2 years old, and I trust German judgment on cars more than American judgment.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, but I think the takeaway is this:

        1. People who don’t particularly enjoy driving are more likely to buy a Volvo.

        2. Volvo owners are generally quite satisfied with their cars.

        What it DOESN’T (necessarily) mean is:

        3. Volvo owners dislike driving because they own Volvos.

        Two completely different pieces of information that are both useful in their own way.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    So Volvo should build 4-cylinder Honda Accords?

  • avatar
    bd2

    2 years ago “Wall Street 24/7” projected that Kia Motors would be one of the brands that would disappear which was, frankly, ridiculous.

    A bunch of amateurs.

  • avatar
    Chiburb

    80+ comments and no mention of my wife’s 2012 C70 Inscription?!?
    Based on Mr. Lang’s review on TTAC, we looked at it as a move up from her ’07 3.2 EOS. With the Polestar tuning and “different” grill and wheels, it was love at first drive. Further, all maintenance and wear items (including brakes, excluding tires) are covered for 5 years/50K.
    Fwiw, before the C70 and EOS was a 328 CI ragtop. This is her favorite of the 3.
    Last comment: based on the C70, I was seriously considering the S80 to replace my Equus. But the lack of DVD-A capability was the deal-breaker. My 2014 Equus should arrive this week, and I look forward to writing an “owner’s review” comparing it to the 2011.
    And to think this all started with Sajeev’s 5 star review of the 2009 Genesis in August of ’08 which prompted that purchase. Thanks to Mehta and Lang we’ve been driving some great cars!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Just keep building solid, reliable cars but entice those buyers who moved on to a Audi or BMW and might be disappointed in the reliability and dealer service.

    Offer AWD and a stick or manumatic on all models. Bring back a real wagon, not everyone needs a jacked up “Outback” version. A new 1800 roadster halo car as well as a entry level Mini sized 3 door hatch.

  • avatar
    George B

    In my opinion Volvo needs to be the IKEA of cars. Tasteful European design at an affordable price. A Volvo must do more than check off all the features like a Hyundai or a loaded Toyota. It needs to have a harmonious upscale look and feel that appeals to the college educated consumer. Other manufacturers check off “5 star safety” while Volvo sweats the details of how to be real world safe with aesthetically pleasing thin A pillars and a well proportioned body. Other manufacturers check off “leather seats” while Volvo works on the details of how to make the most comfortable seats in the industry. If Volvo can also put lots of thought into making the maintenance and repairs easy and inexpensive, they could have an edge over the German brands.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    My theory:

    Volvos were as much a beneficiary of a fluke event as were post-oil embargo Japanese cars. That event was the 55mph speed limit. Drive 55 coincides neatly with their peak US sales years. They were in effect given a breather from normal American driving demands and we could all bask in their solid integrity and Swedish funkiness without dreading every lane merge and uphill on-ramp.

    Were it not for 55 the yernky-dernky pace of those bricks would have been summarily rejected by even academics and doctor’s wives before any bonding with the metal wombs could occur.

    And when 55 was repealed the Japanese and Germans were all caught up with safety and excelled in whatever irrational qualities buyers in this segment desire.

    Characteristically, I adored my 142 as well as the 55 limit.

    • 0 avatar
      CH1

      Volvo U.S sales peaked at over 139,000 cars in 2004 – 30 years after the oil crisis; 30 years after the end of 140 series production, and 11 years after the demise of the 240. The sales leaders were the XC90, S60, S40 and XC70, in that order.

      All the talk about Volvo returning to bricks and wagons is unadulterated rubbish.

      • 0 avatar
        Tostik

        Good post CH1.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Oh, well, it was a nice theory.

        And it still may be why Volvos ever had a better fate than the weird Euro niche cars that floundered here.

        It allowed the bricks to get a start and morph into the ones you cite as circumstances changed.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        What was the overall amount of cars sold in MY75 or MY90 vs Volvo’s sales figures? A better argument would show market share during the 144 and 240 periods and compare them to the 139K figure you gave in MY04/05. Did Volvo’s market share increase/decrease from decades earlier or remain the same?

        BTW, North American sales peaked in 2007 at around 18 million units IIRC, meaning Volvo peaked three years earlier and has never come back. If Volvo sales had kept up or exceeded industry growth (and thus market share) in the same period, your argument would be much more valid.

        • 0 avatar
          CH1

          It’s a fair point that market share would be better, and it tells the same story.

          Market share increased from 0.54% two years before the 240′s departure to a peak of 0.80% in 2004:

          2005-2012 0.45% (2012) to 0.71% (2005)
          2004 0.80% Highest market share ever
          2003 0.79
          2002 0.65
          2001 0.72
          2000 0.68
          1999 0.67
          1998 0.63
          1997 0.59
          1996 0.57
          1995 0.59
          1994 0.53
          1993 0.51
          1992 0.52
          1991 0.54
          1990 0.64
          1980s 0.52 (1980) to 0.72 (1983)
          1970s 0.31 (1977 to 0.54 (1975)
          1960s 0.16 (1962, 1963) to 0.34 (1967, 1968)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thanks for the data!

            So in the old days its minimal growing starting in 1975, in the early 80s it jumps to a high of 0.72, then declines back to 0.51 by the end of the 200/700 run in 1993. Hovers in the 90s and when most of the new car models started to debut in 2000, it jumps to 0.68, 0.72, 0.65 and then a move to 0.79/0.80 in 2003/2004 which I might attribute to the XC90 coming online along with increased V70 sales.

            Then it seems to almost halve for seven years, hmmmm interesting. I could see this after 2007, but the drop begins before the financial crisis. What do you attribute it too?

          • 0 avatar
            CH1

            Correct, except for the part about the V70 contributing to increased sales in 2004. V70 sales declined every year from 2001 onwards, except 2003, until it was finally pulled from the U.S. market in 2010.

            The post 2004 sales decline isn’t a mystery. There are multiple factors, one of which was the continued movement of consumers towards SUVs instead of wagons.

            The single biggest factor, though, was the lack of new products while competitors were unleashing a barrage of new products.

            In 2005 the S80 was already 6/7-years old; S60, V70 and XC70 were 4/5-years old; and the XC90 had already hit it sales peak the year before. By the time the new S80, V/XC70 arrived in 2007/2008 and the XC60 in 2009, it was too little too late.

            The new S60 didn’t appear until 2011 after skipping a model year. The current generation S80 and XC70 are now 5-6 years old, and the original XC90 still soldiers on. It won’t be replaced until 2015 and 12 years in service.

            Maintaining a steady stream of new products has always been Volvo’s single biggest challenge because of its small size. (Need I remind you that the 240 was in production for twenty years!) So, the pattern has been periods of growth immediately after the release of new volume products followed by stagnation or decline as those products age and linger.

            Hopefully that will change going forward as Geely invests.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I am in agreement with your points here.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I actually need a small SUV (and I will now be forever banished from TTAC, I know). I recently test drove the XC60 R-Design, BMW X3, and MB GLK 350. The Volvo was the best overall for many reasons. But I probably won’t choose to buy it, due to concerns over the brand’s future, and what that might mean for service and resale.

    • 0 avatar

      Kosmo, I really wouldn’t be concerned about the brands future in the slightest…the story done by 24/7 is a bit of tripe (see the comment above about them previously projecting Kia disappearing 2 years ago). Volvo is well-funded at the moment, with key products soon to drop (XC90) and are also seeing some significant sales increases in China. Volvo has a long way to fall before it is anywhere near done, and even then service for your XC60 wouldn’t be difficult (there are more than enough out there that parts are worth making).

      Out of the three, the XC60 is easily the most attractive with arguably the nicest interior. Don’t fall victim to the negative talk, just buy the best product.

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      EChid is right. Volvo broke even last year, and is projecting to break-even again this year. Not great, but hardly down and out. Volvo has a wealthy benefactor (Geeley), and is about to do major model improvements all across it’s line. Look for Volvo to break-out of the hole it was in under Ford.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    I see a lot of do this and do that, but nothing practical. Volvo/Geely is in a bind. The cupboard is empty in Sweden and China isn’t the answer.

    Volvo has to determine their direction. Talk to the home market. They grew because of Sweden. The values were solid engineering coupled to well built but simple machines. Things that will not leave you stranded on a cold winter’s night in Lapland. Look to your roots.

    Define your models. How many do you need to satisfy the market? 3? 4? A small sedan. A large sedan. A SUV/CUV/crossover. A small, high mileage grocery getter. OK, how many platforms? 2? Maybe only 1. See if you can leverage a design that is one of those modular thingies. How many engines? 2? Small, efficient 4 cyl based on the redblock? How about just a n/a and a turbo? D.I. head.

    You have just created a nice little car co. Easy and for how much? $2 bill? 3? And who has that? Can Geely afford that kind of expenditure to modernize Volvo? And can they do it without offending the current customer while getting new ones with the new models?

    While I don’t see Volvo fading away quickly, I also can’t see great changes anytime soon. A new platform must be created for the future, but I don’t think Volvo has to be the one to create it. I think that the fracas in France over PSA should be watched closely to see whether Volvo can leverage any tech out of there.

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    Volvo needs to re-occupy the niche where the competition is getting lighter by the year: that of Lasting Quality. Not the initial quality of a throw-away appliance, not the ‘upscale’ overstyled gadget-filled faux-luxury, but the old-fashioned hard-wearing honest goodness.

    This means the build quality like the high tensile strength steel already mentioned by others above. Real world usability like the interior room and the outside visibility, not through infotainment in-car surveilance. Wear-resistant surfaces that still look pleasant to the eye. Timeless lines to preserve the investment in a well-aging, long lasting vehicle.

    Keep focusing on selling to the core market, which is middle-aged higher middle income people. Don’t worry about the youth, you’ll get them when they have more brains to appreciate such cars and the disposable income to pay for them. Don’t overprice, rather keep the cost (and weight) in check by not stuffing the car with useless gimmicks.

    One platform: a large wagon/sedan and a SUV. RWD, normally aspirated longitudinal I-6 engines. Prove the re-established focus on comfortable durability in limo fleet use (like Benz in Europe).

    Take on the ‘car as a tool for work and living’ concept. Chevy, Ford, Dodge and Toyota serve the working man’s needs, who is serving the white-collar professional?

    But of course Geely has other plans for Volvo… So pull a Husaberg on them, let them keep the brand and the current line up and start afresh. The new Volvoberg, the old Swedish practicality. Unless, of course, those values are now gone in Sweden too…

  • avatar
    jschinito

    coming from a subaru, thus another non-major niche brand, i’m the prototypical volvo buyer. well educated, probably could afford a audi/bmw/mercedes, but find them pretentious and would never seriously consider domestic (almost with resurgence of cadillac but quite yet).

    as others have stated, i picked volvo because it’s near luxury, safety, decent reliability (solid T5 engine, aisin automatic, ford p1 chasis) and relatively affordable (especially compared to the premium brands). there is the apple-esque simplistic but very detailed design… lots of useful cubbies and ergonomics of the floating dash still brings a smile every time i use it. best seats of any car really makes driving a pleasure.

    if they just stick to that formula and maintain quality, they can let audi/mercedes/bmw eat each other, and be the european option over acura/infinity/lexus. their r-design can offer owners with sportier desires (and bigger pocket books) options and their wagons can continue to serve the non-SUV folks.

  • avatar
    red60r

    I just replaced my Red S60R after 9 years with a XC60 R-design. No more hanging up, and almost tearing off the nose of the car, on parking stop bars. Remarkable performance and loads of room. The new car is gray metallic, but I’ll keep my TTAC login the same, just for consistency. Also for the record, I looked at a red XC60 R-design at the dealership, but it would have wasted $2K of my retirement money on their really terrible Navteq GPS. I heartily agree with Jeremy Clarkson’s comments about the Aston-Martin nav system, which is pretty much the same as Volvo’s. An iPad mini equipped with a decent GPS app does a lot better for less.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    The way to survive for Volvo is to join its forces with someone else. Perhaps, with BMW or Mazda or Hyndai or whatever, etc. I don’t know.. but a car company that can’t sell even a couple hundred thousand vehicles a year will not last very long. The standards for engines, transmissions, and electronics have gone way up and will continue going up. The economies of scale are such that it’s pretty hard for small companies to be profitable.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I don’t think that Volvo Cars necessarily needs to “go back to its roots”, but if the company could get the “boring” reputation for reliability and luxury of pre-spindle-grille Lexus, I think everything will be okay. One of the conditions of such a plan is that the company shouldn’t have fifteen year old platforms, for once.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    I’d love to see Volvo be what Audi used to be: a company slotted above the rank and file, but with an eye to cater to the people that don’t fit in the mainstream of the car buying public. there actually are plenty of people out there who don’t want an SUV or a standard B/C segment sedan. Audi used to cater to these people. Remember the original S4′s? The Avant’s? the allroads? the stick shifts! I hear volvo is brining back the V60. maybe they have the right idea.

  • avatar
    droot112

    Once again many of you are missing the overall, the big picture.
    What is the question? Why is Volvo losing Market share? To answer this we simply need to look at there market. Volvo by far sells more cars in the northeast than any other region in the US. The WSJ had an article not long ago on gas consumption and how the US as a whole has reduced it’s gas consumption by almost 9%. The northeast is a leader in reducing our gas consumption by 10%. Volvo sales are off by 10%. Die hard Volvo fans still drive Volvo’s regardless of their issues. Where they lost market share was with the green folks. Volvo attracts a certain clientele. The green tree hunger type folks. Metro hippy if you will. Those same people also want good gas mileage. Volvo isn’t loosing ground to Audi or Merc rather they are loosing their market share to the Hybrid’s. Volvo is continuing to attack Audi with their advertising. What a waste of time. Audi and Volvo drivers are not the same. Volvo is closer to Subaru than Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      CH1

      ” Volvo is continuing to attack Audi with their advertising. What a waste of time. Audi and Volvo drivers are not the same. Volvo is closer to Subaru than Audi.

      The number one brand cross-shopped against Volvo is Audi. BMW is number two. The issue is that not enough people consider Volvo in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      georgia boy

      I was just in the market for a new car. Audi was on our list. Even though the dealership also sold Volvo’s, I never gave it a thought. I visited nearly every brand and drove dozens of cars but when we passed the Volvo lot, it was, “meh”.

      Now I’m probably biased because the car we traded was a 2004 Saab 9-3 and part of the decision was the fear of a major repair or an accident and needed body panels. In any event, Volvo was far below our radar anyway and that I think is the problem for the company, at least in the US.

      Reliability? Most all cars are reliable anymore with Honda/Accura and Lexus nearly unbeatable. Volvo will not rebuild on that aspect even they could improve reliability.

      I see a lot of knowledgeable Volvo owners here that love or have loved their cars, but a 0.3% market share is probably down at the level of Peugeot before they pulled up stakes and left. That’s not enough to pay for dealers to keep ample stock and make money.

      Interestingly enough, a manager at that dealership also predicted that Volvo will pull out of the US next year. There’s just too much competition that excels in any area that Volvo could offer.

      Except for Volvo enthusiasts, I don’t see a reason for many people (above 0.3%) to care. Just my opinion.

      PS We bought a BMW. I’ll probably be sorry when the warranty runs out and wish I’d bought a more reliable car :)

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Buy Volvos. They’re boxy but good.

    - Dudley Moore, Crazy People

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    You’ll never survive by building cars that people believe are reliable and have them actually be reliable. The best thing to do is build cars that people think are reliable that actually aren’t. Volvo had a short run of being able to do this, but after a while people started to realize they couldn’t run their V70 to 200k miles as easily as their old brick.

    If I were a car maker, I’d build cars to be reliable to about 65,000 miles and from 120,000 miles. Maybe build in a computer program that starts throwing codes and causing minor problems until 120k.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Ford and Toyota basically do this, except that it’s in the service schedule rather than the ECU.

      There’s a big scheduled maintenance around the time the warranty runs out, and lots of people buy a new car after they see the bill.

      Then a guy like me buys the old car at a huge discount, budgeting an additional $1k-$2k for rehabilitation and to outfit the vehicle for my purposes, and then I drive it until my life changes (8.5 years in one case, an unfortunate 1 year in another, and currently working on another 8+ year one at the moment). At least that’s how it’s worked out so far.

      Yeah, its a racket. And participation is optional. But those who do participate safe me a ton of money. The cars are both reliable and perceived as such, except for that post-warranty maintenance flurry.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I seriously considered buying a Volvo about 18 months ago. And, yes, I pretty much match the stereotypical demographic: bearded professional over-educated family man. And proud of it.

    I liked some of the wagons, but I was looking for something that I could maintain over the long haul. Their funky infotainment system was an obvious problem (since I intended to buy used and upgrade), and when I started searching the forums and found that nobody in the Volvo enthusiasts community had much of a clue how those things worked. I was out.

    I couldn’t find anything to justify the premium, so I bought a beater Escape for half the price (more hackable, bigger rolling junkyard), which are both necessary for long-term ownership. When I hit a financial windfall, I replaced the Escape with a used 2nd-generation Sienna, which outperforms the Escape in every dimension that I care about (reliability, repeatability, MPG, cargo capacity, hackability, etc). Volvo doesn’t make anything as practical ad the Sienna, and I’m not trading down to a brand new XC70 or whatever now.

    I’d love something like what Volvo is supposed to stand for, since I’m practical, I like to be comfortable, safety matters, and since the behavior of BMW/Mercedes drivers soured my perception of those brands long ago (never mind their lack of practicality). But, the value proposition of a high-trim Toyota is hard to beat, and I’m note going to pay more for a car that is less reliable or less practical. (I don’t really care about image.). So, I’m happy with my choice.

    But, if Volvo wants to make a practical, reliable, safe, comfortable, reasonably priced car, with good MPGs (premium small minivan? Solid wagon?), I sure would take a look. Even better if it’s diesel and/or hybrid. Without new tech, I buy used for comfort, because what’s comfortable doesn’t change much.

    As it stands now, I’ll probably just keep with the used practical cars until I can afford a family-oriented Tesla something-or-other, though I haven’t ruled out picking up a Leaf as a 3rd car.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Someone has already perfected the modern Volvo 240. It’s called the Camry. They sell quite a few of them, although not enough to justify a wagon.

  • avatar
    hifi

    As someone who has grown up with Volvos as a child, and as an adult who would today consider a new 2004 S60R if it were available, this appears to be the problem… to the traditional Volvo customer (who also influence non-volvo owners,) the brand is unfocused, undefined, outdated and overpriced. Customers have gone to Subaru, VW and Mazda on the low end, and to Audi or some upscale Fords (believe it or not) on the higher end. The lack of available platforms and suitable R&D resources have made Volvo vehicles conspicuously behind the times and outside the consideration set of most buyers. Volvo’s unconvincing attempt at sportiness is, to exiting customers, confusing, and smacks of effort trying to be something that it ought not try to be. Also, the blatant Chineeziness and immature influence of the new ownership upon Volvo is not going to help the situation in Volvo’s traditional markets (i.e.: developed countries.) To make matters even more difficult at Volvo: Traditional Volvo owners, if they even matter at all, are very much at conflict with the political stance and business ethics associated with China.

    So, in a nutshell, Volvo is not in good shape. Ford kept any IP that was worth anything and sold off the bare carcass to Geely. Geely won’t likely get anything other than a logo out of the Volvo purchase, and Volvo will continue to become even more irrelevant over time.

    • 0 avatar
      georgia boy

      The other thing that occurred to me as I read these posts is that I can’t remember the last time I saw a Volvo commercial on TV. If they’re so starved for cash that they can’t afford to keep up with their competitors on television advertising, that’s not a good sign.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I just saw one over the weekend, it starts with the P1800 which has 3,000,000 miles and then they invite you to take a journey of your own in a new Volvo as the models zag right to left on the screen presumably following the P1800.

  • avatar
    facelvega

    I just read the whole damn thread of posts– bravo TTAC reboot (and Doug D.) if it gets everybody thinking and arguing like this, very interesting.

    In the comments, I read basically every argument I’ve ever rattled off about where Volvo should go, and in light of reading it all at once, I think I was mostly wrong: no need for grand reliability, no 240 reboot, no questioning of the R cars, no last-wagon-standing policy.

    But I do buy the arguments that a few of us made: it’s about model positioning. There are plenty of people who would buy a Volvo if the dealer had a car with a little more room than an S60 and a little closer to the price of an accord than to a 3-series. The reputation of the brand is still strong enough, and there are plenty of buyers in that segment who don’t want to bump up to a much more expensive car. In this way, the new Passat was a much more intelligent design than the too-nice S60.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Nice post, but I’ll play devils advocate :)

      Say they do a LWB S60 (or something) and then drop the price to loaded Camcord levels, why am I buying it over anything else European or Japanese/Korean in the segment?

      • 0 avatar
        facelvega

        Well, whatever it is still has to be enough of a Volvo to be recognizable as such to the kind of educated but non car-loving buyer that tends to patronize the brand. In my experience these people will shop Volvo if they possibly can before going to other brands. What I think they want is a Subaru with higher end, euro-flavored interior and exterior styling.

        Anecdotal examples: my grad school advisor drove a BMW but only because it was cheaper than the Volvos she priced first, and with some embarrassment at the vulgarity of the businessman-like BMW. A friend of mine who is a consultant just asked me whether I would recommend an XC60, and instead is now looking at an X1 or a Crosstrek, though he grumbles that there should be something in between. He certainly doesn’t want a giant XC70. A friend who is a writer test drove a C30 but decided on an Impreza because it seemed more practical.

        Volvo didn’t need a rebirth of the 240 to get any of these people, it just needed a new 850. A more efficient-engined stretch S60 would do this easily: it’s got the style, the decent but unsporting handling, and if the price was right it would only have to seem a little nicer and more substantial than a Passat or Jetta to satisfy, now that Subaru has left the tweed demographic behind.

  • avatar
    Tostik

    RECORDS BEST JULY SINCE 2009

    “ROCKLEIGH, N.J. (August 1, 2013) – Volvo Cars of North America, LLC, (VCNA) reported U.S. sales of 5,909 units, a 3.4 percent increase month-over-month and the best July since 2009. Year-to-date sales are down 4.6 percent over the first seven months of 2012.

    The S60 sports sedan was the top seller for the month with 2,326 units sold, an impressive 20.3 percent increase versus July 2012. The XC60 crossover finished the month right behind with 1,740 units sold.”

    Volvo’s situation in N America is hardly dire. And look at S60 sales. I’ve heard lots of opinions about the driving dynamics of the S60 compared to the A4 and the BMW 3, with many putting the S60 ahead of the A4, but however you view that, the S60 is gaining market share in the sporty sedan category. And the last new offering for Volvo is the XC60, which is an excellent seller for Volvo. Sorry guys, Volvo already has it’s new direction. Every Volvo is having a major redesign within the next year-and-a-half, especially the new XC90. Look for most of these redesigns to do as well as the XC60 has.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Those numbers aren’t that good compared to everyone else. One good month for the S60 does not equal a turnaround.

      Who else is down YTD and showing an under 4% growth this month? Lincoln?

      What are Volvo’s sales per dealer?

      • 0 avatar
        Tostik

        I didn’t say these numbers are good, just far from dire. And this is from a fairly old line of cars! Volvo will do a lot better when all their new models appear in the next year-and-a-half. I know someone in Volvo middle management, and he says there’s a quiet air of confidence in Rockleigh.

        Oh, and I almost forgot. Volvo isn’t doing sales incentives like most other car companies are. That alone will cause sales to drop.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    I am a bit surprised by the discussion omitting one aspect – from the figures quoted somewhere in there, the US and Chinese market account for less than a third of the total volume, yet 99% of the discussion on how to get it right. I imagine the 70%, which are more or less all sold in Europe are an equally pressing, and possibly more important headache.

    And there the traditional space you mention with the 144 and 240 has largely been occupied by Skoda at a price point, where Volvo cannot hope to turn a profit with their low volumes. At the same time they have gradually lost the cool that in many cases came with turbocharged 850 estates (and much less with the RWD predecessors) and competing with the premium set, such as Audi, BMW and MB never really successfully materialized.

    Another point to mention – practicality and roominess took several steps back, as commented on already and the modern V60 or even the by now ancient V70 are pretty much bottom of the league in interior / boot space in their segments. So no longer quadratisch praktisch gut.

    There are other issues. The 5 cylinder diesels are pretty much the roughest and weakest in the market for larger / more powerful diesels and harsher, thirstier, less reliable… than many of the competitors 4 cyls. The volume 4 cyl diesels are middle of the pack but not in the same league as something coming from say BMW (the 6 cylinder petrols make up a minute proportion of engines sold in Europe, and really do not matter volume wise).

    In spite of being under Ford ownership for over 10 years, they still did not manage to sort out their handling / ride to become class competitive.

    There are other issues – the top speeds of the cars are often comparatively lower than similarly powered German models, which while irrelevant in many countries, makes them a harder sell in Germany.

    Another, unrelated point – the much maligned first gen S80 was developed wholly by Volvo, prior to Ford involvement, so Ford cannot really take the blame for that one. And rightfully maligned it is, too – at least according to the experience of pretty much every owner I know (including the one in our family).

    Having put over 500k km (300k miles) on various Volvos during my life, and still keeping a 1995 850T-5R in a garage for an occassional fun drive, it pains me to say this – but in the current state, with the volumes sold and the investment necessary to make it, I do not see a bright future for them, or much of a need for the brand.

    Sure, they do include premium engineering lacking from the more mainstream competitors – as mentioned their safety goes beyond excelling at tests only (in fact they have been soundly beaten in EuroNCAP testing by Renault for quite a while); their turbocharger installations are certainly no problem reliabilitywise – our 850T-5R at 250k miles and the S80T-6 at around 125k are both on their second engine but still the original turbocharger… A lot of this only shows up in the incredibly rare event of a crash, or if you keep the car for 10 years or more – also something few modern Volvo owners tend to do (especially since – in Europe at least – Volvos tend to be sold via super aggressive financing deals first and foremost). And there are so many mundane car parts that start going wrong way before then that few people would want to persevere with a Volvo for so long anyway.

    And last but not least, their current volumes mean amortising R&D over too few vehicles, which means either narrowly specialising, or progressively falling behind in certain areas – something we have seen with the rather longish product cycles and the lack of a continuous stream of new product.

  • avatar
    Tostik

    Worldwide Volvo July sales figures hot off the press.

    Percentage difference over July 2012;

    (1) China – Up 61.6%!!! And, although the Chinese factory is built, it won’t be running til the Fall.
    (2) US – Up 3.3%
    (3) EU20 – Up 16.8%

    Total Sales – UP 14.0%

    No need for panic with those numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I wonder which models the Chinese are buying.

      • 0 avatar
        Tostik

        The biggest seller in China was the XC60, with 49% of the sales. And European sales are up because of one model, the V40 – the sales figures for the V40 are red hot.
        These, the newest Volvos, are doing very well, which bodes well for all the redesigns coming out in the next year-and-a-half.

    • 0 avatar
      georgia boy

      Well, in the US, sales up 3.3% takes the market share from 0.3% to 0.31%, and that’s only if Volvo’s competitors grew by less than that. There’s an axiom in business that if you’re not growing as fast as your competition, you’re going out of business.

      Really does not look good for Volvo, at least in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        Tostik

        Someone posted Volvo’s ebbing and flowing market share in the US in the comments above. Volvo is used to playing with a tiny market share, and that .31% US market share is 16% of Volvo’s total sales. Not a chunk of sales Volvo is going to give up. And with the V60 coming to the US in Jan 2014, and the redesigned XC90 coming out in late 2014, expect Volvo market share to start rising again. Not to mention, all the Volvo line is being redesigned in the next year-and-a-half. Recent history shows that when Volvo has new products they sell extremely well.


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