By on November 26, 2013

2014 Volvo V60 T6

I’ve always had a soft spot for Volvo, that’s probably why I’ve owned two and chose European Delivery on one of them. But Volvo has a problem. It’s not the product. It’s not even the brand positioning. It’s a lack of advertising and visibility. Let’s dive deep into my mind as I pontificate about Volvo’s destiny.

Auto shows are an interesting place to see where a brand thinks they are heading. In Chrysler’s dark days they shrank their auto show floor real estate to a postage stamp sized lot, but it was in the busy central area of the LA Auto Show. Volvo on the other hand has long been squeezed into a minuscule area between Ford and Lincoln. This year something is different. Volvo relocated to the middle of the hall that contains BMW, Audi, Mercedes Lexus and Acura. They have also doubled their square footage. What does this mean for the brand’s direction and faithful? I’m not sure. Why? Because in typical fashion, Volvo had their new-to-America V60 wagon on the floor, but the press conference was on engines we won’t see for ages. [Edit: Volvo tells us we will see the new 4-cylinder engines in January of 2014.] It was also scheduled for the last day of the show when everyone but me had flown home.

The problem was that there was plenty to talk about for the new model year. 2014 brought an unexpected interior refresh across the line with new shifters that are no longer clear (thank God), optional stitched leather dashboards, new front and rear bumpers across the line, a faster 6-speed transmission, LCD disco dashes for the masses and a touchscreen 3G connected system that you can use while wearing gloves. We also get some engine tweaks and more Polestar performance love. Did Volvo mention any of that? Nope. How about that V60? Oh, that? Ja, it’s new. Nej, we are not allowed to talk about new products. (OK, I made that last part up.)

2014 Volvo Leather Dash

What makes Volvo’s situation all the more bizarre is that when most companies wither and die, the product was the harbinger of doom. Saturn had, well, every car they ever made. Isuzu, enough said. Mitsubishi has the Mirage and Outlander and the writing is on the wall. Volvo on the other hand seems to have enough cash to make cars or to market cars, but not both. In typical Swedish fashion they have chosen the former. The result is a leather and natural-stained-oak wrapped S80 T6 that does 0-60 in 5.3 while AWD power-sliding through an intersection. Yes the steering is numb, heavy and slightly vague, but in reality the S80 is “more E350 and 535xi” than a Lexus GS or Acura RLX. Do those shoppers know the S80 exists? Nope. The XC60 T6 R-Design we tested about a year ago was the most powerful mid-sized luxury SUV available being as fast as the BMW X3 and faster than the Audi or Merc. Until the Macan lands, the Volvo is still second, just a hair below the incredibly expensive Audi SQ5. Anyone know that? Not even Volvo knew that. When we reviewed the XC60, I asked Volvo if they could confirm my suspicion it wore the horsepower crown. All I heard were crickets.

Even the ancient XC90 (which is nearly old enough to buy tobacco) is still a fairly competent SUV. By no means is it class leading, but shockingly, it just sailed through the IIHS small offset test to get a Best Pick award. Even after nearly 12 years on the market, I could see someone buying an XC90 instead of a Buick Enclave.

Plenty of people are convinced Volvo’s woes are because the product is too expensive, that the brand is trying to go upmarket and it doesn’t belong. Hogwash. If they want to price out their loyal 240 customers, go right ahead, this is business. BMW moved up market, Audi moved up market. Heck, even Kia is moving up market with the K900. Making more expensive widgets isn’t the issue, selling the widget is the problem. If Geely really wants to make a go out of Volvo, here’s my simple plan.

 

Step 1: Advertise. I’m not talking about doubling your budget. Dig deep. Find out what Audi is spending and get as close as you can. Mortgage everything if you need to.. Make it edgy. Bring those Volvo wife-swapping commercials from Sweden and play ‘em on prime time TV. Bring back some teary-eyed “my Volvo saved my life” content. Jump some Volvos off a cliff. Jam some Swedish models in the cars.

Step 2. You know that 500+ horsepower S60? Stop toying with us and just build the darn thing. Will it be expensive? Sure. Will it sell? Probably not. Does it matter? Yes. Why do you think Kia wants a K900 flagship that will have an annual sales of 12? Besides, such a project might allow Volvo to design a 400HP drivetrain at a reasonable cost which is essential to compete with the Germans.

Step 3. Regain the impression of safety leadership. Notice I said impression. This goes back to step one. By not advertising, you have allowed Honda, Subaru, and others to take a leadership role in consumer’s minds about safety. I know safety doesn’t sell by itself, but everyone I know with kids that asks for car advice says one thing first: “I want a safe car that XXX”. Play on those fears.

Step 4. Prey on the weak. Acura and Lexus seem to have trouble finding their calling lately. Use that to your advantage and target four-cylinder FWD cars at those folks. Hint: they love wood trim and don’t care about RWD driving dynamics, so make a trim level just for them.

Step 5. It has been said before, but I’m starting to agree. You need to build a minivan. Make it looks XC60 ish, seat 8, give it AWD and don’t cheap out on the back seats. The Mercedes R didn’t sell, so keep the price reasonable, maybe a $10,000 premium over Chrysler’s Town & Country. Jam more air bags than a mother-in-law convention in there and sell it to minivan mommies who will buy anything to keep their kids in a Swedish cocoon.

 

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147 Comments on “Whither Volvo?...”


  • avatar
    Travis

    Most people prey on the weak.

    • 0 avatar
      kolonelpanik

      No, most people ARE the weak, and they pray every week no one will prey on them yet again.

    • 0 avatar
      CelticPete

      I like Volvo – great seats and generally superior interior compared to the Japanese cars I have driven..

      However the Japanese luxury makes are basically reliable cars for people who want luxury and don’t want to deal with luxury problems (in their mind – Audi is actually pretty reliable now according to CR).

      In NA that’s not so easy to write off. So its not so easy for them to prey on the weak.

      In comparison to the German cars they lack the legacy and drivetrain. Commentators are quick to point out to how ‘most people can’t tell’ about they are FWD cars. But there IS some trickle down effect here.

      Rich men actually do tend to get into cars – and know something about them. And they would not recommend a FWD nose heavy platform for people asking for a sporty car. So that puts Volvo in a square battle with Audi (with their AWD models) and that’s a tough road to go with Audi performing exceptionally well of late..

  • avatar
    Dan R

    I have a 1997 960. Great car. So thoughtful.
    Are there enough college professors and middle class housewifes to keep the brand going?
    Volvo needs to return to its Lutheran values.
    The fake front intakes and LEDs combined are sinful.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Now that all automakers tout the safety of their vehicles, Volvo no longer offers a value proposition that is sufficiently unique or interesting to matter.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Sorry, but the problem IS the product. Well to be more precise the problem is that the product costs too much relative what it is. They have the exact same problem as Acura, Lincoln, Infiniti, and all the other “in-between” luxury brands – the product is decent, but if you can afford a Volvo you can also afford to go German. And most people do. I’ve spent literally months in rented S60s over the past few years and they are just utterly underwhelming. I don’t buy cars to crash, so any theoretical safety advantages are completely lost on me. They are no great thrill to drive, and they are no more reliable than anything else. Good seats, but my BMW has good seats too. I prefer the Buick Regal Turbo to the S60 by a country mile.

    At least bringing back the wagon will give them something relatively unique, until everyone else does too. Though the one they should be bringing back is the non-jacked up V70.

    You are spot on about the lack of marketing, that certainly doesn’t help, but even if people knew about them, there is just not much reason to actually buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I would argue that for much of Audi’s product line marketing is the reason to buy it. Base A4 models offer little to sway that Buick Regal shopper you talk about other than brand. Brand is king and the key to brand is marketing. Audi sells front heavy FWD sedans all day long because they convince the sheep in the market that they need one.

      • 0 avatar
        cdnsfan27

        Actually Alex the marketing at Audi is average at best. We hardly sell any FWD A4′s with the CVT, they are the price leaders and get people in the door but once they drive the A4 Quattro they are sold. At the moment though the Q5 is outselling the A4, and no I am not on the ski slopes of Vermont I am in Florida.

        We have been very successful with the S4, S5, RS5, S7 and RS7. We have already exceeded our allocation and are trading with other dealers.

        I grew up as a big fan of Saab and Volvo but smaller manufacturers are being squeezed out, they are getting lost in the plethora of models being introduced by the German manufacturers. When our A3/S3 comes out in the spring we will be busier than ever.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        I would argue this one. Audi goes head to head with BMW and Mercedes, but positions itself as a “Value”. Obviously, Audis are not cheap, but you get things like AWD (de facto) and Leather seats standard, where BMW and Mercedes nickle-and-dime you for every little thing. If I am paying 50k+ for a car, I want LEATHER seats, not some flippin’ vinyl.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          Audi is value? Uh, no.

          On the left coast, Audi prices itself above BMW and both my wife and I laughed our way out of the dealer test drive when they presented the numbers on an A4 sedan.

          They tried pitching the A4 as more expensive because it’s a ‘limited production’ car. They actually said this to us.

          Hilarious, those Audi guys.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            My wife just bought a new A4 last weekend. The A4 represents about 1 out of every 2 cars they sell in the US. She looked at a 3 Series BMW but for her the A4 was the better car. And I’ m glad because I find a 3 Series BMW about as exciting as vanilla ice cream. I mentioned checking out Volvo, she had zero interest in that.

        • 0 avatar
          ClutchCarGo

          “For thirty-seven thousand, leather is extra?
          What kind of seats are in there?…
          What is Mercedes Leather?…
          So, why don’t you just say vinyl?…
          Okay, thick vinyl, but it’s still vinyl…”

          -Lost in America

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            MB-Tex sounds better. I had a VW Jetta Wolfsburg with leatherette. That was a $21000 car though.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            So, I get a leather-like interior that needs little upkeep, will wear better, and doesn’t involve an animal’s death to achieve?

            I’m ok with this.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I agree. I am a former 240 owner, turbo wagon with manual trans was my first car. I desperately want to like volvo, test drive them whenever I am car shopping. But I just cannot justify the price of some of their offerings. Alot of their cars offer pretty poor fuel economy, perceived reliability (I suspect actual reliability) is not stellar. Most of all, the elephant in the room is volvo’s future. Once consumers start to question if a warranty will be honored 3 years down the road or if parts will be readily available in 5 years, I think its a downward spiral. Volvo definitely needs some sort of grand gesture, product offensive, ad blitz and maybe even move some additional metal to let potential customers see the commitment to the US market.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    Step 6. Prove to people like me that I can trust buying a Chinese product.

    I’ve gotten burned so often that I take a Missouri mentality: Show me.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Valid point. So far it seems that Geely has been keeping their hands off Volvo, for better or worse. If Geely poured money into Volvo and managed it right, it could be really good or really bad. Only time will tell.

    • 0 avatar
      salhany

      They aren’t built in China, not for the North American market anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Lampredi

        “They aren’t built in China”

        Not yet. But it’s pretty evident that eventually that’s where future Volvos will be built (even though naive Swedes still believe otherwise).

        • 0 avatar
          Alex L. Dykes

          I disagree with that. I suspect that unless Geely does a 180 that they will operate it just like Tata operates JLR. While I’m sure that there may be more China-sourced parts, Volvo’s most likely move would be to find a partner to make cars in N. America. If any move is to be made, local production is the most likely as it makes the most business sense for them.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Could the Chinese do that much worse than the Swedish did with Volvo for the past decade or so?

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Your TV, fridge and iPhone are disappointed in your attitude.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Say what you like about Volvo but I can order any part I need for my 1997 960 from the dealer. My experience from Ford has not been the same. In this case, a 1993 Ranger.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      Good to hear since I had been semi-seriously searching for an old Volvo wagon. Trouble is, I require three pedals which the professors and housewives seemed to loathe.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        If you are already low volume, then selling a manual is that much harder. The regulations make it even harder.

        • 0 avatar
          olddavid

          I keep hearing of this “regulation” restriction. What is it? Can you cite an example? I am not being facetious, or ironic, I am genuinely curious. In the late 70′s, the factory tech guys tried to say the manuals for the Pontiac T/A were in short supply due to the idea that clutch engagement somehow caused an increase in emissions. Pure bullshit. What is restricting manual transmissions except demand?

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            EPA testing is a big one, that each individual powertrain has to be assessed, so most automakers will try and keep the combinations down unless they think they can recoup the millions spent on testing and development.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            This is where your industry bribery, er lobbying, dollars should be being spent: simplifying or limiting ridiculous and expensive bureaucracy.

          • 0 avatar
            Frankie the Hollywood Scum

            28 How would you suggest the regulations be written? The 3 series offers Diesel, hybrid, and gasoline powertrains in addition to both RWD and AWD drivelines. That’s a very wide set of variables to optimize. I could see allowing road load to be done with more simulation, CAFÉ vehicle type nonsense being reformed, and perhaps Diesel regs that rebalance Nox vs CO but that would not radically reduce development costs. Imperfect as they are keep in mind the reasons these regs exist in the first place.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            In order to rewrite the regs, one would have to start with the idea that there are good reasons not to have regs at all. That should help bring some balance to the process. Another good starting assumption would be that the reason the old reg was there may not have been a good one.

            We could go along way by getting together with other countries on a standard. As I understand it, most of the wealthy countries in the world are on a standard together except us.

            You could have tort relief for meeting the standards. I always thought its rather unfair a company spends millions to ensure a standard is met and then loses in court because the bar gets raised after the fact. Especially when a corrupt process forces the use of technology that causes the failure.

          • 0 avatar
            Frankie the Hollywood Scum

            I can agree with tossing out any preconceived notion that an existing reg is a good reg and efforts to standardize regulations across countries can be a good move. Also I’m in favor of tossing out rules that allow boutique fuel blends (http://www.api.org/~/media/Files/Policy/Alternatives/US-Gasoline-Requirements-Map.pdf).

            However, (I’m not sure if this is where you where going) but an idea that things like lead in fuel or windshields that are non safety glass should be left up to a manufacturer or the invisible all wise hand of the free would be reckless.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Not where I was going. Something more like if the windshield requires tempered glass, then you can’t get nailed for punitive damages when it turns out tempered glass is a bad idea.

            Leaded fuel is an excellent example. It’s fine to say you can’t have lead in the fuel, but if you the regs leave no alternative to MBTE, and then the MBTE turns out to be a toxic mess that turns the fuel from a fairly moderate ground water pollutant into a really nasty ground water pollutant then maybe the company that bought the refinery a decade after they stopped using the MBTE shouldn’t be on the hook for all future cancer cases in another state where the gas stations (not owned by the refiner) apparently stored the stuff in rusty buckets over aquifers.

            That was a bit of hyperbole, but not too much. My neighbor (one of the ones a few blocks to the north of me where the really rich people live) is considering buying a vineyard in his mid forties having defended the refiners over MBTE issues for the last decade.

            He is a great guy, does a great job, and all the bleeding hearts need to realize that his salary is now part of the cost of every gallon of fuel the working poor buy to go to work. So are the salaries of all the green, consumer friendly, out to protect the little guy lawyers on the other side.

          • 0 avatar
            Frankie the Hollywood Scum

            Now that I better understand your position I completely agree.

            While tort reform would address a symptom it does not really address the structural problem with our system that allows stupid regulations to be enacted in the first place. Keeping this in the realm of fuels ethanol is an excellent current example. Pushed as a bio fuel extra cafe credit and embraced by companies with deficient product planning departments as softball extra credit (looking at you GM) and the corn lobby over the legitimate safety, compatibility, and environmental concerns of many others high concentrations of Ethanol in fuel was destined to fail and we knew it. But this is a harder question. How can you improve regulators and politicians so there is a better filter to stop net negatives from being implemented in the first place? Heck in the current environment you would either have to be a zealot or a narcissist to become a politician or regulator in the first place. IMHO

          • 0 avatar
            Russycle

            I don’t think it’s entirely BS. In the late 70s it was nearly impossible to get a V8 with manual in California due to the state’s tighter emissions standards, I recall car mag reviews often pointing out that the manual wasn’t available in CA. I don’t see how that translates into a tight supply of manuals for the other 49 states, but there did seem to be some correlation between manual tranny and emissions.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I agree with the other statements that Volvo just offer much in the way of a value proposition in today’s crowded marketplace. They can probably live as a niche of niche brands, but in the end they just won’t be able to compete without the volume.

    Like Saab, I don’t see them making a real comeback unless they move down market and can move some serious metal.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    That dashboard looks so generic.
    I hope that Volvo will have a Viking’s death.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    The MBAs are observing us.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Volvo has an image problem. I remarked to my wife the other day that the XC60 we were following looked nice and that maybe we should consider one. Her response was that she wouldn’t be seen dead in a Volvo and that we should get a Range Rover Evoque instead (like our neighbours).

    Volvo makes great cars but only car people seem to recognise it. Volvo either need to market the hell out of their car or perhaps move downmarket and focus their venom on the likes if VW. Problem is both moves are tricky. Volvo has a similar image problem to Rover and as they found with the 75 you can make great cars but who cares if no one buys them?

  • avatar
    ash78

    What’s reliability like now?

    A decade back (and these reputations are hard to shake), Volvo was always in the same breath as Land Rover and Audi in terms of “problems that make you want to trade early” — as well as cost of extended warranties, which are an actuarial proxy for aggregate repair costs.

    Meanwhile, the lineup is just recently evolving away from bland FWD cars with shoddy, plasticky interiors (save for the amazing seats). I fell in love with the 2004 S60R, but when it came time to buy one a few years later, the maintenance reputation crossed it right off the list. It’s hard to turn that ship around until you have 5-10 years of solid reputation under your belt.

    Also, how about the dealer network? I can’t tell you where our Volvo dealer is in a metro of 1.3 million. VW has two dealers here, and they’re the runner-up for “not enough dealers!”

    • 0 avatar
      Dan R

      You must be living in Alabama or some other God forsaken place.

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        LOL. Even when visiting family in FL or the mid-Atlantic, it’s the same dearth of Volvos as at home. I’m starting to think it’s like Subaru and Colorado — do 2-3 states account for half their sales?

      • 0 avatar
        vwgolf420

        As a resident and native of Alabama, I can assure you we have no shortage of Volvos in this state, at least in Birmingham, and that goes back into the 1970s.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        I live in Houston and we have 4 dealers for a general population of 4 million.

        When I bought my Outback I would have gladly gone CPO for the XC70 or XC90 if I had confidence in the reliability factor. But I didn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      andyinatl

      I’d say Volvo was never in same boat as Land Lover/Audi/VW when it comes from reliability. Their electrics were always good, engines were pretty much bulletproof. During 1999-2002 they had issues with all wheel drive models and automatic transmissions (same transmissions by the way as used in Camrys, but stupidly enough Volvo “sealed” them for life). I’ve had Volvos from 1994 960 to 2004 V70 i’m driving now, and few other models in between. Not single one of them was causing any issues that would’ve made me seriously think about getting rid of it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Wow, alot of KIA references.

    “Plenty of people are convinced Volvo’s woes are because the product is too expensive, that the brand is trying to go upmarket and it doesn’t belong. Hogwash. If they want to price out their loyal 240 customers, go right ahead, this is business. BMW moved up market, Audi moved up market. Heck, even Kia is moving up market with the K900.”

    I call BS on your hogwash, the brand needs to welcome its faithful home with real Volvo product if it is to survive and prosper. Volvo is not a giant conglomerate who can afford to spend like there’s no tomorrow and churn out garbage to rich folks and poser proles. KIA (from a brand standpoint) isn’t even in the same universe as BMW, Audi, and even Volvo which is why I’m so puzzled by all of the references.

    “Step 1: Advertise.”

    I agree, def need better marketing. Rolling out Irv’s P1800 only reminds me how far Volvo has fallen. I imagine 99% of MY13 Volvos will be Chinese refrigerators by the time Irv’s car passes on.

    “Step 2. You know that 500+ horsepower S60?”

    Nobody cares, not even the brown diesel manual wagon crowd because theirs isn’t transverse wrong wheel drive. Hot rod people want a Volvo? Pwleease.

    “Step 3. Regain the impression of safety leadership”

    This used to matter but is no longer the forefront in most people’s minds because most of the majors now offer very safe cars. The target value to aim for would be QUALITY where many near-premimum/premium brands are lacking. Build a better quality vehicle than the other Euro majors and you’ll earn repeat buyers (notice not leasers, buyers). If you believe all is well in the global economic mess than sure people will keep throwing money away on other Euro-brand junk, but truly moneyed people hunker down when it hits the fan. Truly moneyed people will buy your Volvo if its actually a quality item, if you’re just like all the rest than why you over another Euro brand?

    “Step 4. Pray on the weak.”

    Oh so the sickly lion should prey on other much stronger lions? Lexus is serious global car brand which can run rings around Volvo. Acura is the exact opposite but faux lux Hondas sell well to buyers in N.A. (for reasons I can’t understand) where Volvo would face probably their stiffest competition. I suggest compete with no-one but yourself, because there is nothing you do significantly better than your competition. What you offer a customer is the Volvo look/feel and brand heritage (which you flushed down the tubes last decade but not everyone pays attention).

    “Step 5. It has been said before, but I’m starting to agree. You need to build a minivan”

    Actually I have to agree this could work.

    I see it now… Volvo V100, the Cadillac of minivans.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Agreed on marketing, I don’t care about the budget for the ads so much as they need to make sense, too often I’ve seen car ads today that only tell me “It’ll save Bambis mommy” and “It’ll make you a trendy hipster”.

      They need to follow the ad-style that Volvo trucks has given us, ridiculously cool stunts to show off their technology. And the incredible mileage that their older models could reach.

      “if you’re just like all the rest than why you over another Euro brand?”

      This mindset is exactly why when competitors in a market emulate one another, I ask “Why pick one over the other?”. Volvo does need the reliability they used to promise.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Reliability coupled with high quality. In the FWD arena Toyota offers both Avalon and ES which (should) deliver excellent reliability, but Volvo could deliver a higher quality for similar money. Tits would be to bring those values to the RWD arena as was once done.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        I can see the Volvo minivan, but there is the danger of the “I’m so boring a drive a Volvo AND a minivan” perception. Disclaimer: I’ve been considering getting a Caravan recently, so I’n not a minivan hater. I may, however, be boring.

        • 0 avatar
          johnny_5.0

          Meh, the Caravan has 283hp. Not saying it’s super fun a twisty road, but a nice peel out is always at your right foot’s discretion. I can think of a lot of cars that are more boring. Minivans aren’t really my thing, but I have a kind of perverse interest in something like a Caravan or Town & Country with a supercharger slapped on…pity they don’t offer AWD any more.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Number of shits I give about perception: 0. Minivans rule.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Reminds me of this…

        http: //www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/7161-Perfect-Pasta-Sauce

        Jim Sterling is talking to Video Game developers, but the message I think is more universal than that. He talks about how Triple-A game studios are dooming themselves all trying to compete with Call of Duty, asking Call of Duty fans what they really love about Call of Duty and then try to immitate it, but then their product doesn’t sell well… why? Because the Call of Duty fans are already playing Call of Duty. Which brings us to Pasta Sauce.

        Back in the 80′s Prego was trying to compete with Ragu, and failing miserably, so they hired a marketing guru to try and fix things and he went nuts. He tested all different kinds of sauces, sweet sauces, spicy sauces, and some that were Extra chunky. Thing is he wasn’t seeking a ‘killer-ap’ recipe, he was gauging consumer preferences, and recommended offering product that tapped into neglected markets.. for example, there Were no ‘extra chunky’ sauces for sale in jars at the time, so Prego extra chunky was born and it sold like the proverbial hotcakes..

        ….

        I’m saying we need more Extra Chunky in automobiles, is what I’m saying.

        …I think.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Lexus is not really a global brand considering its presence outside of Japan and US being pretty weak, esp. when it comes to sales of its RWD sedans.

      Like Lincoln, Volvo needs to target the FWD Lexus lineup (as well as Acura).

  • avatar
    el scotto

    30 years ago Volvos were conservative cars with an old money undertone. These days they’re trying to be swoopy and sexy and such. They need to build four, okay maybe five, vehicles. 1. Sedan that looks like a brick, 2. station wagon that looks like a brick, 3. a small SUV, 4. a big SUV and, well okay, (5) a minivan. Fashion comes and goes, style remains constant. Oh, and Polestar optional for every vehicle. They shouldn’t be the vehicle that makes you consider other ones; they should be the brand you happily replace again and again.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      EXACTLY. Go back to quality bricks. Improve and guarantee reliability…. (our S70 was awesome to drive and hell to fix).

      I’m a moderate guy. I want my dd to be conservative & functional since I’ll be keeping it 10-12 years hopefully (I have the old screaming convertible for the fun times).

      Volvo can’t compete with MB, BMW or even Audi. They’re more at the Acura/Infinity level….fair game. Safe, functional and reliable can be a brand…

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Alex, your video reviews are always enjoyable to watch and your articles are generally well made and straight forward, but your facts can be a bit incorrect at times.

    These days theres actually a few “cheap” Mercedes and BMWs that you can buy now, back when they were more enthusiast-friendly you had to be fairly privileged. Now theres a Mercedes Camry and a number of budget-Beemers. Audi has VW so they don’t need lower-priced cars.

    Also, I don’t recall Volvos ever being cheap, working on my 240 I cannot see a car with 6 brakes and high quality materials abound being sold cheaply.

    In fact the whole reason that the Volvo 240 never caught on as a police car, despite the cops adoring it and its first place score on police tests, is that it simply cost too much compared to a Ford LTD or a Caprice.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Volvo’s product IS too expensive, the brand IS trying to go upmarket and it DOESN’T belong there, at least not totally. NOT Hogwash. If they want to price out their loyal 240 customers, they’ll lose those customers, and won’t have any to replace them.

    BMW has moved down market with the 1-Series, 2-Series, X3 and X1. Audi moved down market with the A1, A3, Q5, and Q3. Kia plays on both sides of the market, from Rio to K900. Cadillac now has the ATS below the CTS. Even Mercedes is widening its audience with the FWD CLA, starting under $30,000.

    You’re telling me MERCEDES FREAKING BENZ can sell a sporty, engaging, attractive sedan under $30K, but not Volvo? Yes you are. And you’d be right; Volvo can build cars or market, and they’re doing the former, but they think they can only survive by charging as much as they can for what they’re offering.

    You also mentioned Buick. Buick is mopping the floor with Volvo selling $23K Opel Mokkas and $24K Astras (Volvo’s cheapest CUV starts at $34K) Lexus just released a new IS and is planning a sub RX-Crossover.

    I maintain that Volvo has the wrong strategy at the wrong time, and it isn’t just about marketing. Saab showed that no amount of marketing will save a brand peddling a lineup of aging, overpriced curiosities.

    Volvo ignores the 240 and 850 at their peril. The most visible reminder to people that Volvo exists are those very 240s and 850s still on the road today. The further they distance themselves from their legitimately successful past, the less successful they’ll be.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    “Jam more air bags than a mother-in-law convention in there” — love it. Volvo should hire you to do the marketing… use that as a commercial along with the wife swapping one!

    Volvo used to have great ads, now I can’t remember even a single one. What I do notice is that their cars are quite expensive and it is hard to attract buyers because they do not have the same brand recognition as the Germans. How to fix it? Lease subsidies, just like GM, Acura, etc do, like Land Rover used to do. The lease deals on Volvos are atrocious, laughable almost… $500/mo after $5k down, etc. All they have to do to move metal is give the near-luxury buyer a deal and people will snap them up because, well its European.

  • avatar
    CowDriver

    Just give me a wagon akin to the 850/V70. Lots of interior space that I can fill with whatever needs to be hauled today. I don’t want a tall SUV, just an ordinary station wagon.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I do agree that half of Volvo’s problem is that people forget the brand’s existence….or if they do remember, they think of boxy, professor-driven wagons. But Volvo has some very competent products. The XC60 offers style and panache not found in most of its competitors, and the pricing is much more reasonable. The S60 is a worthy consideration if you’re looking at the Buick Regal or Acura TSX, or even small RWD compact sport sedans. That V60 would absolutely make me thing long and hard about whether I *really* wanted a 3-Series wagon. And I can bet you that the next XC90 will be significantly better than the competition. Then, of course, there’s the fact that Volvo’s have lower ownership costs than the other European automakers’ products. Volvo needs to flaunt its stuff.

    Another thing that will help is presentation. BMW, in particular, has mastered this. Each of its models feature trend-setting and well-thought-out design elements. They also do excellently with interface design. They turned their double-circle headlight motif into the instantly-recognizable corona design, and this made them the only company whose lights didn’t look tacky when the LED era began. They were the first company that caress enough to debut a warning chime that was crafted to sound melodic, and that wasn’t some sort of ding or buzz sound…way back in MY2002 with the E65. I can honestly even say that a big part of BMW’s allure to me is iDrive, which looks and feels like it could have come from the geniuses at Apple and which makes all other infotainment systems look amateurish at best (although Chrysler Group’s Uconnect is a close second place).

    I guess all of this adds up to the fact that Volvo needs to figure out how to continue delivering its Scandinavian style and quality while putting some equity and desirability back into the Volvo name. The corporate 2014 facelifts were a good start, but we need to see that continue. When I say that I’d love an S60 R-Design, I don’t want my fellow twenty-something friends to look at me like I’m crazy and ask why I wouldn’t rather get an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz…

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    There are several S60s here at work – very nice – I really like them. Would be a good car for the S.O. in AWD configuration (she’s very pragmatic and likes her 8 year old beat up Subbie)

    Agreed that Volvo needs to advertise – in general. The Ford acquisition was bad for the brand (in hindsight) and now there is this whole, “it’s a Chinese company,” cloud hanging over their head.

    The sad reality is advertising for an auto company costs tens of millions of dollars a year – and its hard to prove ROI on those dollars.

    Even at $45K to $50K a pop – you need to move A LOT of metal to justify the advertising budget.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      Under the Ford oversight though, Volvo introduced its most successful cars (no, not the 240/740/940) with the S60, XC70/V70, S80 and XC90 for a mass market. The S40 could have been a great success, too if it had been kept up to date.

      Sure, the old square Volvo’s are the heritage but at least Ford gave Volvo a market share.

      During Ford’s reign, Volvo played and succeed in a market that it created and it had no other significant competitors. Volvo carved the “near-premium” segment in the early 00′s and Lexus and Acura were just barely on the radar. Once Geely took over and tried to up-market Volvo, it all went to hell in a handbasket. Volvo doesn’t have a chance in the MB/BMW dominated “premium” market. Lexus and Acura need to be its main focus since they’ve been the ones to take up Volvo’s slack in the “near-premium” market that they vacated in the Geely takeover.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Volvo’s upmarket craze happened before Geely. Remember that in car development cycles things take a while to appear. So Jaguar and Land Rover’s success has largely been thanks to the plans Ford has well under way. Similarly the latest generation S60, V60, S80, etc are all very much Ford-era products. Only the new SPA setup and new engine is “less Ford” although SPA was started under Ford ownership.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        S60/S80 were already under development prior to the Ford purchase, V40 originally came out in 1995, and V70 already existed as the 850 wagon. Ford gave them XC90 and Ford platforms for subsequent generations, can’t think of much else.

        • 0 avatar
          CoastieLenn

          Everything that rode on the “P2″ platform was a Ford development. There were Ford emblems and “FoMoCo” stampings on crossmembers, sensors, modules, and even electrical connectors all over the S60/S80/XC70/XC90/(2004+)S40.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I have heard the same comment on the Ford stampings but it was never quantified on which models/years, seems like it would be on models after 1999 at the earliest. If the stamping were on an MY98/MY99 S80 I would say that is *very* interesting.

            “The Volvo S80 is a mid-size executive saloon/sedan from Swedish automaker Volvo Cars, and was introduced in 1998 to take the place of the rear-wheel drive Volvo 960/S90″

            “In 1999, Volvo sold its car division Volvo Cars to Ford Motor Company for $6.45 billion.”

            EDIT: Seems I was right:

            “The Ford D3 platform (called P2 by Volvo) is a Ford global full-size car automobile platform. It was designed by Volvo before its 1999 acquisition by Ford, debuting with the 1998 Volvo S80″

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_D3_platform

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        I don’t know, but I suspect that there was pressure to move up because the Germans were pushing back down.

        Some people would buy a less expensive, not quite as nice E class, but many would rather have the cheaper smaller Benz.

        I like a strategy based on Swedish style and targeted demographics for Volvo. Expand from professors and teachers to white collar knowledge workers with style. Architects, web designers, writers, etc. Not skinny jeans, not the latest hair style, but more classic and keepable. The Germans are disposable, make Volvo’s into keepers.

        Of course, the cars have to last or that will blow up on you in only a few years.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I agree with the keeper mentality. However, to do this they’re going to have to tone down the odd style they are putting into their interiors.

          Look at any Volvo interior before 2004. They look VERY old, because they used the same interior from 95-04 and just added buttons. Everything looks mushy as far as plastics are concerned, and by the time they got around to adding sat nav options into their cars, the interiors were done for. It’s why the screens had to rise up from way high on the dash.

          Now look at them. Still using the 04 interior 10 years later, reworking button locations, and it looks dated.

          In 96 it was all good, and in 05 it was all good, but the interior never ages well beyond a couple years after introduction. They use the Scandinavian high-IKEA-style that’s too “in the moment.”

          Case in point:

          05 S80
          http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://files.conceptcarz.com/img/Volvo/2005_volvo_s80_manu_08.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.conceptcarz.com/view/photo/67006,8487/2005-Volvo-S80_photo.aspx&h=585&w=780&sz=75&tbnid=rpocJwtwqhoS1M:&tbnh=93&tbnw=124&zoom=1&usg=__SUXw9t4SCoEzaGuwPoLivr886tk=&docid=yF58rqlfJDE4nM&sa=X&ei=mvyUUujNBaKpsASnvYH4DQ&ved=0CFQQ9QEwBA

          05 5-Series
          http://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2012/01/04/15/46/2005_bmw_5_series_545i-pic-7061697728577733475.jpeg

          05 E-Class
          http://image.automobilemag.com/f/2005_mercedes_benz_e_class/2309595836268781765+ppromo_amag_large/cockpit.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I never understood “subbie” as a pet name for Subaru. It is the exact same number of strokes on a keyboard. I always used “suby”. I wonder if there is some regional dialect thing that pushes people to spell it suby, subie, or subbie…

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    The biggest sign the product isn’t the problem is this: Whenever I have had a nicely loaded XC60, S80, S60, or XC70, my BMW/Mercedes E/5 owning friends always comment “wow, this is a Volvo? I didn’t know they were nice.” Ouch. That’s a problem. But it’s easier to address than a negative reaction.

    • 0 avatar
      salhany

      Exactly. A friend asked me for advice for his girlfriend, who was looking at A4/3-Series. I suggested the new S60. Her reaction was the same as your friends’. And she bought the S60.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      But how many of your freinds jump to an S80 from their 5-series?

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Exactly the problem. However, I honestly believe that if Volvo had been advertising like the big boys over the past 6 years it wouldn’t be a shocking jump. The thing about is: if you pull up at the country club in an Acura, or even some Lexus or Cadillac models, people will think something went wrong with your investment portfolio. It’s not the same level of prestige. Volvo on the other hand, while certainly lacking prestige, is in a different bucket. People will just say, oh, ge got a Volvo, he’s practical in a cardigan sweater kind of way.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Jeremy Clarkson keeps buying XC90s. They could at least trot him out and call other luxury crossovers rubbish. I think his quote about the XC90 is, “As a means of carrying people and stuff at the same time, the Volvo has no equal.”

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I never understood Clarkson’s claims of how roomy the XC90 is, I think he made some sort of outlandish claim that he could carry 7 people and dogs at the same time or some such nonsense. My family test drove one and found it pretty cramped both widthwise and in terms of rear legroom. The doors are seriously a foot thick, which bodes well for safety but less so for interior space. About the only thing the XC90 has going for it is good looks and comfy seats (and safety). It is a very middling SUV in just about any other metric, and inferior in terms of fuel economy and reliability to most contemporaries.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The same can be said for almost anything on that platform. The Ford/Licoln CUV triplets do the best job out of all the P/D platform vehicles at being roomy. The XC90 looks nice, and the design has stood the test of time. However, the Explorer is just plain better, especially with the Ecoboost V6. It doesn’t help that Acura, Infiniti, and Lincoln all make a better 7 passenger luxury CUV. That doesn’t even include the GM BoF SUVs.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          ^i disagree. The Flex and MKT ad kind of airy, but the Explorer feels as thick and cramped as the XC90. Right now, I would actually rate the GM Lambdas as being the roomiest, since they’re practically minivans without the sliding doors, but I haven’t sampled the Durango…

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I think the Explorer is roomier up front than the XC90. Cops like it. As a rule, the Ford/Volvo/Lincoln D/P platform vehicles are not the ideal examples of roominess.

            I agree that the Lambdas are spacious up front. They have a 6 inch longer wheelbase than the Explorer. I looked at pretty much all of those big CUVs when I purchased our last car. I think the Acadia/Traverse may be the best deal right now for people that lease. However, I think the Ecoboost Flex is the best of the bunch.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I don’t think there’s any point in leasing large, domestic crossovers, but for those who do, you’re probably right. As for the Ford Flex, I thought it was positively hideous during the pre-facelift years. But with the 2013 facelift, especially that awesome grille, the Flex is absolutely gorgeous…

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            We agree sir. I would never lease an Acadia, but I know plenty of people that do.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      You should see people’s reaction to my wife’s Volvo C30. It must be the most unrecognized / unknown vehicle on the market. People are down right shocked that Volvo makes a sexy, sporty, upscale-ish hatch. But those traits are the main reasons my wife wanted it… well once I told her such thing was on sale. As stated: zero advertising is to blame here. However even if people knew the C30 was around it wasn’t priced to move.

      I would think with Saab done that Volvo could pick up those customers. If not, I don’t see them sticking around for very long as they don’t offer anything unique anymore. And they are not really competitive (price-wise) in that narrow “near luxury” segment they are in (up against Audi & Acura).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Made, not makes, lol. It’s done for after the 13MY.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I almost bought a C30 back in 2008. I liked it better than the GTI, but VW wanted to deal and Volvo didn’t. In retrospect, I’m glad I bought a 4 door vehicle. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the lower storage space or less doors of the C30. I still think its a great car though.

      • 0 avatar
        packard

        The C-30 is a nice car. It was held back by an antiquated 5 speed auto and high price. Too bad Volvo is discontinuing production rather than refining this model.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Volvo does a decent interior. But the cars are cramped, and a soggy mess to drive. And the new engines can’t come a moment too soon.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Volvo makes a decent interior. But the cars are cramped and a soggy mess to drive. Camry-level at best. And the new engines cannot come a moment too soon, considering their current engine family dates to 1992, and was hardly cutting edge then!

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Cramped? soggy? I own one, tested a few, have no idea where you get any of this. Maybe a comparison you find applies?

        As a guy who passed on the turbo, I won’t argue about engines except to say my inline 6 is smooth and much preferred to our Audi 4 banger high tech turbo which has zero low end torque, runs great otherwise, but is so new fangled I consider it a ticking bomb to be traded at warranty expiration. I loved my 328′s engine, but you can’t get it anymore without a turbo and other BMW baggage.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Do you like Fords, but consider them too inexpensive and reliable?

    Consider Volvo.

  • avatar
    340-4

    Step 6: Reliability.

    Cars in this day and age, and at Volvo’s price level, should exceed the supposed ‘legendary’ quality level of Honda and Toyota (who has slipped!).

    Build me an orange S60 wagon or whatever it’s called with AWD that will be bulletproof for a decade and I’ll pay your price.

    Even if it’s not a diesel or a stick or brown.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      Not when its competitors would be MB/BMW whom are not exactly top notch for reliability. All it really needs to do is be better than “ok” in that instance.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      This is just silly. Any executive car is going to have more potential issues simply because it is generally using more advanced technology. What isn’t there can’t break. You will never have an iDrive or adaptive headlight issue in a Corolla. And these days, they are all but the same anyway – my BMW has had fewer issues than my Mother’s Toyota over the same span of miles and years.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I don’t have any experience with BMW, but I wouldn’t be too worried about anything with the 3.0-liter naturally-aspirated inline six…you know, the one they don’t sell anymore. A post-LCI E90 328i and a pre-LCI E70 are both on my radar.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Really, really don’t like that high beltline raising to the point of a mega-blindspot on the C pillars. It also seems incongrous to the rear greenhousing, which seems really well designed.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    Another problem I see with Volvo is something that many will consider minor but I see as a “badge of dishonor”.

    The “T6″ designation.

    The S80/XC90 T6 (B6294T) engine is what cemented the idea of unreliability and high cost repairs in the minds of many car people. Changing the turbo return gasket and seal ($15 parts) was nearly a $800 job back in the early 00′s because of the way the transaxle was set up. On the FWD 2.5L turbos, that same job was ~$200. The transmissions were absolute junk as they were sourced from General Motors since Ford didn’t have a FWD trans that could withstand the torque of the twin turbo inline 6, so GM “gave” Volvo a Cadillac transmission. What a catastrophe.

    To carry that name badge over to the new models is sure to turn away and prospective customers that Volvo had in the last decade that were unfortunate enough to have purchased an S80 or XC90 T6 when they first came out. Sure, after a few years, things got marginally better but never perfect and the damage had been done.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The S80 used the GM 4T65, Cadillac used the 4T80. In GM’s defense from what I have heard and read it was Volvo who programmed the transmission computer incorrectly but I’m prepard to be wrong. The fact the unit was used in so many GM products you still see on the roads leads me to believe whatever S80′s problems were not of the borrowed transmission’s design.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_4T60-E_transmission

      http://etereman.com/blog/uncategorized/a-history-lesson-on-the-gm-4t65e-transmission-and-discussion-of-some-common-problems-and-their-cures/

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    A nicely equipped Volvo gets too expensive for the brand cred -lack thereof- and dated designs. Option up an S80, and see how high you get – into the 60K region. Ridiculous for such a smallish, outdated car. They need to do what the Germans are doing, for less money, and bundle options together at a LOWER price. All the optional safety doo-dads should always be standard. Don’t make me pay extra for the BLIPS or whatever the blind spot thing is, and a backup camera, and radar cruise, and heartbeat monitor, etc etc.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Twilight of the Gods.

  • avatar
    pb35

    My (professor) wife loves her XC90 Sport. However, if it burned to the ground tomorrow, we would likely wait for the new model to be released since the V8 is no longer available and the 3.2 leaves a lot to be desired in this application.

    I sent her a link to the just announced V60 Polestar this morning and told her I want it for next Christmas. She replied “yeah, here’s what I want” with a link to the S5 Cabriolet.

    She’s funny, my wife.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    I don’t understand the complaints about perceived lack of Volvo value. Listen, at this time, base S60 costs about $4K cheaper than A4, and about $6K cheaper than 3-series. BMW is premium brand too, just like Volvo. Just because their cars are RWD does not make them a luxury. Yes, they have 7-series, but outside that, they’re hardly luxury, as any stuff you’d actually want is part of an option package, and you get barebones as a base car. Plus you’re not getting leather seats at the base price, you’re getting taxi-grade vinyl. Audis/MBs are nice, but they are much more expensive. In my opinion, Volvo is positioned great, right in between those and the rest of the brands. Not to mention, out of all european brands, Volvo is one to own long term, while your BMW/MB/Audi is best leased.

    • 0 avatar
      pb35

      Our $53k XC90 leased for $41k back in 2007. Too bad Volvo’s lease deals have dried up.

      It wasn’t a lemon so we bought it at the end of the lease term.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      With its transverse engine FWD layout the S60 should be priced against the transverse engine FWD A3 sedan, CLA and upcomming 1-series sedan. At best. Volvo does not have nearly the brand equity of Audi, Mercedes or BMW.

      Really the S60 should be priced against the Ford Fusion.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Add AWD and there is no particular reason the drivetrain can’t compete with Audi’s layout. At least with the Volvo design the engine is over the front axle. With Audi it is entirely in front of the axle.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          The engine is over the axle, not in front of it? Are you sure of that?

          There is nothing wrong with the transverse engine, FWD layout. It is the most popular layout by far. Which is Volvo’s problem. Why are they any different than Ford, Hyundai or Honda? Because of the waterfall center console? I mean it is cool, but it’s not going to get me to pay $10K over a Fusion.

          How much unique engineering is necessary to justify a premium is a critical question. A majority of BMW buyers thought that their cars were FWD, so why waste the money on RWD platforms? BUT, somehow, whether it is what the “tastemakers” choose, or whether it is simple things like a cab rearward layout with a short front overhang and a decent distance between the wheel well and front door line, RWD layouts justify premium pricing.

          The same with VW successfully differentiating VWs from Audis with a strut/transverse layout on most VWs and a four-link/longitudinal layout on most Audis. Somehow people sense that a A4 is better than a Passat. Back when the Passat did have the four-link/longitudinal layout everyone was getting a Passat as a bargain A4.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Volvo’s essential problem is that it isn’t German.

    There are two possible solutions: (a) try to beat the Germans at their own game, or (b) pursue a different niche. Alternative (a) is expensive and difficult, and has low odds of success. Personally, I’d opt for a version (b), and focus on the crossover market.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    Volvo is one of those brands you come to when you do your research. I guess I reside in a particularly small niche, but the XC70 comes out on paper as the perfect car for me. Want AWD but not floppy CUV handling, a cubic meter of luggage space with all the seats up, some measure of luxury, a comfortable highway ride, and reasonable tow capacity? As far as I can tell the XC70 is the only game in town.

    So delighted they didn’t decide that the XC60 made the 70 obsolete. Some of us really do see the virtues of true wagons, and Volvo is one of a very few brands that can be bothered to offer them.

    Compare the luggage capacity of an XC70 to an Audi A4 wagon some day. What a joke.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark_MB750M

      Yep. We cross-shopped the XC70 vs. the Allroad and Outback. The Volvo beats them both on a number of measures for comparable or equal money. I think our Xc70 went out the door for 36k, a similar Allroad was 44k.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Volvo North America makes Lincoln looks healthy.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    We’ve got to stop talking about European cars as if they’re all the same thing. From a branding perspective, there are the Germans, and then there are The Rest. Nobody, in markets where they’re both sold, would consider a Mercedes and a Peugeot as equivalents. The mistake Volvo makes in the NA market is assuming that we’re all dumb enough to conclude that if it comes from Europe and costs more than a VW, it’s high-end and aspirational. This is absolutely not the case, and I expect that BMW will learn this in short order if they keep making cheap, wallowy junk. Volvo can (and probably should) do a better job of building a more reliable VW alternative instead.

  • avatar
    tremorcontrol

    I hope Volvo survives all this, because the cars are actually good, and I’d rather drive something different. I think the S60 is a creditable alternative to the German sedans if the buyer can basically get past his own ego.

    The Volvo marketing definitely needs to increase and be executed well, and Geely needs to be extremely cautious how they manage the company (as they have been so far… but we’ll see).

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Price isn’t exactly the problem – by ’93, the 240 was up to almost $23k (over $35k in today’s dollars, apparently), and the 850 was over $25k. With the S60 starting at $32k, it looks almost reasonably priced.

    I might be deluded here, but it’d be nice to think that if Volvo could offer the S60 with all the safety features they make, and virtually nothing else (cloth seats with manual adjust, no screens or anything) and offer it for $29,995, it’d sell. I doubt it, but it’s a nice thought.

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    I’d have to say it’s more a marketing problem than a value proposition or something else relating to the car itself. Volvo doesn’t do a lot of advertising, and the last big thing I remember was a campaign showcasing that P1800 with a billion miles. They need to show the current cars, which are nothing to be ashamed of. They’re good looking cars with what I would call grown up styling and it seems that they’re still sturdier than competitors. Volvos have always been fairly expensive, but they need to point out in showrooms and elsewhere that when the cars are equipped the way most buyers want them they are more reasonable than Mercedes and BMW, which nickle and dime or worse on options. Mercedes has a model that starts at $30,000, but how many of buyers come away with a car that costs that much.

    That said, they kind of lost me as a buyer/leaser when they stopped selling the V70 here. I really need a wagonoid car, but don’t need 4wd, the bigger engine, and all other stuff the SUVs entail, and I certainly can’t shell out well north of 40K.

  • avatar
    Tostik

    “Even the ancient XC90 (which is nearly old enough to buy tobacco) is still a fairly competent SUV. By no means is it class leading, but shockingly, it just sailed through the IIHS small offset test to get a Best Pick award. Even after nearly 12 years on the market, I could see someone buying an XC90 instead of a Buick Enclave.”

    Dead on the mark. I came over to this article sure I was going to have to angrily correct another stupid article about Volvo from an “expert” reviewer, but I can’t say I disagree with anything said – except for small critiques that are unimportant. And I was disarmed by the first sentence.

    And for those of you who think Volvo is not leading the automotive world in safety, re-read the above quote. More “surprise” crash tests by the IIHS would make Volvo shine all the more. Of course, the IIHS doesn’t have the crash facilities Volvo has – come to think about it, neither does anyone else.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      “the IIHS doesn’t have the crash facilities Volvo has – come to think about it, neither does anyone else”

      If Volvo wants to differentiate themselves from the herd, there’s a good start. We all mock the “professor’s car” stereotype, but a subtle campaign to establish themselves as the car for smart people might work.

  • avatar
    ijbrekke

    Went to the LA Auto Show a few days ago. My two favorite vehicles were the new Mazda 3 hatch and the V60 wagon (I was clearly shopping size and shape as a category.) V60 was beautiful, comfortable, and perfectly sized. I got excited about it.

    Then I realized I could literally buy two Mazda 3s for the same price. That killed it for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      You can’t tell the difference between a Mazda and a Volvo? Then you should buy the Mazda. I had a Mazda6 as a rental recently. What a piece of junk. The ride was stiff and very uncomfortable, but the car still managed to lean badly in a hard turn – a signal achievement by Mazda. And the seats were horrible. I couldn’t wait to get back home to my XC90.

  • avatar
    Tostik

    1. Volvo just finished #1 in the 2013 JD POWERS Customer Satisfaction survey in Germany, as they did in the same survey in 2011.

    2. Volvo just finished #7 in the 2013 CONSUMER REPORTS reliability survey, ahead of Honda, and Subaru.

    3. Almost every Volvo model is being redesigned in the next 2 years. Geely is letting Volvo fly, unlike the Ford bean counters.

    4. Volvo sales in Europe have been great, in a terrible economy–up 3 of the last 4 months. And Volvo sells half of it’s cars in Europe.

    5. Volvo sales are roaring in China–up 40% so far this year. And the new Chinese factory is just getting started.

    6. And Volvo knows they need to do something about North America. But they will not give up on a market where they sell 15% of their cars. The new V60 and the redesigned XC90 will go a long way towards improving sales here.

    7. Volvo broke-even last year, on the sales of older technology to Geely. Volvo will break-even again this year because the company has become profitable in the 2nd half of the year.

    Volvo is going to be around for a long time. :-D

  • avatar
    pb35

    I should also point out that I have an excellent Volvo dealer where I live. Everytime I bring my car in, they ask “what would you like to drive today, Mr. B?” Last time I had a brand new C70 convertible on a beautiful fall day.

    The few failures that I’ve experienced have been handled swiftly. The angle gear for my AWD gave up the ghost about 6 months after the manufacturers warranty expired. The service manager escalated my case and Volvo covered a $4000 repair. This was 2 days before Christmas 2010. It was then I knew there was indeed a Santa Claus.

    If I decide to buy the V60 Polestar, it will be largely due to my dealer experience.

  • avatar
    Les

    Every time I put “Local Volvo Dealerships” into my search engine of choice all I get back is places to go to buy earth-moving equipment.

    Maybe that has something to do with Volvos not selling?

  • avatar
    esprit350

    Volvo has a truly unique positioning in the automotive industry. To begin with Volvo designs age very well, even if they are boring (to drive) sedans or station wagons. Eliminating the seated human AC controls would get Volvo more respect as a luxury brand. Every car brand can get five stars on a highway safety test (in large part because of stronger materials), but how many passed the small overlap test? This is the beauty of the Volvo brand… Volvo cars are like bulletproof vests. Imagine owning a Volvo xc90 for 12 years knowing that it passes recently released safety standards good for another 5 years. The same xc90 (R) earned 5/5 stars in edmunds road test. Yes, most cars have comfortable seats, but Volvos are among the best in the industry. The small things like safety, good designs, good ergonomics, good seats, etc are what people like about Volvo. Adding performance and an air of exoticism will make for the perfect Volvo. Not many cars can brag about building a very safe, very fast, very comfortable car. This should make for an amazing GT car(sports car?). Much like Aston Martin in comparison to it’s rivals, Volvo is NOT a direct rival to BMW or Mercedes. This uniqueness is why people still buy Volvos. The only problem with Volvo is their poor fuel economy, pedestrian interiors, and horrible steering feel. If the recently released polestar is the one on sale in Australia now, then Volvo hasn’t addressed the steering and chassis dynamic as it did not get the best reviews.


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