By on June 12, 2015

163787_Volvo_XC90_at_the_Swedish_Royal_Wedding

Whereas the Teutonic Trinity of Audi, BMW and Mercedes go for complexity in their offerings, Volvo aims to attract luxury consumers through simplicity.

At the 2015 Automotive News Europe Congress in Birmingham, England, Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson pointed out the number of buttons the XC90 had compared to two new models from two of the trinity as far as handling the main controls go, Automotive News Europe notes. While the Germans opted for 55 and 37 buttons respectively, Samuelsson stated Volvo only needed eight to get the point across.

Samuelsson’s point behind the button count was to declare his company would not match feature for feature against the Teutonic Trinity, proclaiming “no one wants to buy a copy. They buy the original.” The proclamation was followed by a presentation of an app which would grant one-time access to a given Volvo model to those delivering groceries, dry cleaning, and other items, followed by a text alerting the owner the delivery occurred.

Both examples are meant to demonstrate Volvo’s reinvention following its purchase from Ford by Geely in 2010. Then, the automaker had little product, and relied upon Ford’s platforms and engine offerings to see everything through.

Samuelsson said his company would pursue consumers more concerned about their families and the environment as part of its new strategy, than those looking to destroy ‘Ring times. Said pursuit is expected to be aggressive, as Volvo aims to increase global sales from a targeted 500,000 in 2015, to 800,000 by 2020 via a product offensive which will see all platforms and engines as being 100 percent Volvo starting this summer.

[Photo credit: Volvo]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

57 Comments on “Volvo Markets Simplified Identity Against Teutonic Complexities...”


  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Yes, because a 5000 pound CUV with a turbocharger, supercharger, and electric motor with auto-braking, AWD, and adaptive cruise control is all about simplicity. Hakan Samuelsson, you, sir, are disingenuous at best.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I think he means their target market is simple.

    • 0 avatar
      clivesl

      Well there is simplicity of operation and simplicity of design. I don’t much care how complex the underlying systems are (assuming equal quality of manufacture). I do care about how many steps it takes to say, change a radio station.

      I think Volvo could be onto something if they backed off the in car gizmos and went with a cabin that had natural mounting points for aftermarket navigation, etc. That could be interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      This.

      “Volvo aims to attract luxury consumers through simplicity.”

      This 2.0 super-turbo aircooled engine powers the front wheels of 2-tonne SUV via compressed propane, and the rear wheels with hydraulic pressure from a Citroen pump. So easy! So simple! You love it.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “While the Germans opted for 55 and 37 buttons respectively, Samuelsson stated Volvo only needed eight to get the point across.”

      He’s talking about user experience, not about mechanicals.

      Which is pretty significant, since that’s what you actually interact with, you know, 100% of the time you’re in the car.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I applaud this distinguishing approach, even though I’m not a Volvo fan per se. Hopefully it will yield some fruit.

    Also, the elimination of buttons has to be done wisely. If it means encountering a maddening soft-touch screen GUI, it won’t be any better.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    The amount of tech in an S-class or 7 series is staggering; there are all manner of buttons and screens and controllers. For those that love tech it’s not a big deal and can be fun learning all of the systems but for a lot of people they just want simple. That is not saying they don’t want amenities but they don’t want to be overwhelmed by tech or how to tune this or that on.

    My wife couldn’t figure out how to shift my M3 with DCT or that there was no park. Idrive? Fahgetabouit.

    Volvo is creating a nice interior and a user interface similar to what users are already accustomed to which is a large tablet. An XC90 T6 is a very likely next car for my wife, CPO of course.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      In the premium market (f*, I started using the p-word) women have traditionally been Volvos strongest card. When it comes to the US, this has been true and exploited by marketing since the early 70s at least. Keeping the experience of car ownership simple and intuitive is pretty much in line with knowing their market.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Samuelsson said his company would pursue consumers more concerned about their families and the environment as part of its new strategy, than those looking to destroy ‘Ring times.”

    Somewhere in NYC, our good friend JdN cries out: “You fools!”

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      “Samuelsson said his company would pursue consumers more concerned about their families and the environment as part of its new strategy, than those looking to destroy ‘Ring times.”

      Somewhere in NYC, our good friend JdN cries out: “You fools!”

      Somewhere in England, James May is saying “Yes!” and doing a happy dance.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Much of the blame for Cadillac’s recent troubles can’t be placed on JdN.

      Ring times and superior handling are fine – as long as you offer the other things that American luxury buyers want – mainly interior room and quality of interior appointments.

      The problem with the ATS and CTS are that they are severely lacking in the interior space dept. which is a major blunder.

      Jaguar made the same error with the XF and am afraid that they are doing the same with the XE and the new XF.

  • avatar
    turf3

    I hope this doesn’t mean they are going to try to just put all functions on a touchscreen.

    I fail to see the value of any more driver-operated controls than are present in my 2009 S60. There are no touchscreens at all. HVAC: fan speed and temp. are rotary knobs. Fan direction is controlled by the little buttons and the silhouette picture of the little guy. Radio has maybe 10 buttons/knobs but a number of those are things like “bass” or “treble” that you access once in a blue moon. Shifter is a normal console, and it really could go up on the column. Normal window up/down and lock/unlock buttons. Headlights on-off are a rotary knob. Diagnostics and trip functions (mpg, etc) are available off the left stalk with a rotary sleeve. Tilt wheel is the usual lever under the steering column. Handbrake is a proper lever. Almost every single control is immediately understandable by looking at it.

    Other than a USB port for your chosen electronic doohickey, what the HE!_!_ else could you want? Why don’t these idiots figure out that the job of designing driver-operated controls is freaking DONE and put their energies onto something else, something useful.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    “via a product offensive which will see all platforms and engines as being 100 percent Volvo starting this summer.”

    That’s the real news. What platforms and engines are getting discontinued this summer?

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      The product offensive, which will *ultimately* see all platforms and engines as 100% Volvo, is starting this summer (with the rollout of the new XC90).

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    I’m all for simplifying the experience for Volvo ‘drivers’.

    Whatever dash layout/design they choose, Volvo should include a super special button that, upon pressing, fires a spring loaded syringe into the driver’s butt with a mega-dose of Xanax. This will smooth things over should the Volvo crush and maim another Harley rider.

    • 0 avatar
      Calico Jack

      Huh? I wasn’t aware Volvo drivers were conducting a jihad against Harley riders. What are you referring to?

      But I may not see eye to eye with Harley guys anyway, I lost sympathy for motorcyclists many years ago. I’ve seen too many motorcycle riders driving dangerously through stopped or slow moving traffic as well as sitting there revving in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        Ok. I was a bit over the top. I shouldn’t comment when drinking.
        The point I was (lamely) trying to make: Volvo drivers are probably less aware, by about half a standard deviation, than other drivers. This is based on anecdotal evidence from a biker friend, so YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          That prejudice holds up in England, famously illustrated by Clarkson’s right-blink-left-turn finishing the S60R review.

        • 0 avatar
          don1967

          Right on cue, here comes a Volvo S80/Yamaha V Star 1100 owner to chime in.

          Over the years I’ve accumulated my share of personal automotive biases, but I don’t for a minute take them seriously when riding my motorcycle.

          On a motorcycle it’s not beige Volvos or black BMWs or Obama-stickered Priuses that need your attention. It’s the vacant stare of the oncoming driver whose left turn signal is blinking, regardless of what he’s driving. Ditto the gap in the backed-up lane you’re whizzing past, the gravel scattered across the next curve, and other hazards that go looking for distracted bikers.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Smart plan. Wealthy people are less inclined to buy campy clutter and stat sheets full of superfluous options. Unfortunately for Volvo, the nouveau riche and upper-middle class are all about the signaling games of conspicuous consumption.

    If they build simple luxury cars, they’ll end up with a small base of really good customers. I guess they can dilute the brand shortly thereafter to attract more customers.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      That’s what happened in the late 80s/early 90s. The lineup of 200s and 7/900s will survive the nuclear apocalypse even today, and they were solidly made, rigorously designed cars.

      With one big difference: The choice of exclusion with the XC90 is claimed to be voluntary, not a lack of ability. Rebiews have been raving. This is an important moment for the brand.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Isn’t this what Saab tried though? Like pre-GM Saab, I mean. Small base, very devoted customers. That doesn’t work in modern branding unless you’re selling ultra-premium product (like a Bentley) and under a larger umbrella brand to subsidize you. (Which Geely might be willing to do?)

  • avatar
    Fred

    I’m glad that Volvo has figured out what it want’s to be. I also applaud their choice of simplification. I’m pretty sure I would of bought a V60 instead of the TSX wagon, but I just couldn’t part with the extra $12,000.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Which ultimately is the rub, isn’t it? Volvos simply cost too much for what they are. No amount of “simplicity” will fix that. They have EXTREMELY high cost of production and no volume to spread development costs over. Chinese manufacture may help with #1, but at what non-monetary cost?

      • 0 avatar
        tremorcontrol

        I think they cost just *slightly* more than they should — say 2-3k. Otherwise, they’re high quality and worth it.

        On the other hand, the new XC90 looks like a million bucks on the inside so I’m not sure if they’re overpricing it. The models below it will be pretty nice if they inject the new XC90 design in the right doses.

        Btw I had a 1st-gen TSX sedan and loved it. I also almost bought a TSX wagon. I wish Acura had put a slightly more powerful engine in it (although the 4-cyl in the TSX was a lot of fun to rev). The V60 wagon (used) would be a nice vehicle. Looking forward to future iterations.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I agree Volvo build quality is generally high, but the products need to have reliability to come with it. Volvo spent at least a decade building problematic models which seems to have subsided in the latest EUCD model generation. But supercharged plus turbo in the same motor… I dunno…

      • 0 avatar
        tariqv

        Actually volvo has a brand image problem driven mainly by not-quite-fully-premium products, that is the reason why they could not charge the same price premium as the Germans. This will hopefully change with time tough with the immaculately engineered products reaching the market, xc90 being the first one. Remember that Audi was not considered as premium as Bmw or MB just 10 years ago, and they managed to get there. I believe volvo deserves to be right at the top.

        As for costs, volvo have really broken the boundaries with their one-platform and one-engine family strategy and it seems they will manage to pull it off and drive down costs significantly

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The rent is too damn high. Only thing they have going for them is resale value so low for the secondary purchaser after year two.

        And the only thing you should buy from them is either the XC70 or the XC90 (current). Everything else is close in size-ish but too expensive.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    If Volvo wants to get anywhere close to those kinds of sales numbers, they have to figure out how to operate on 7 year model cycles like everyone else. Selling the same car for 10+ years is fine if you’re Bentley. If you’re trying to compete with BMW, it’s not fine.

    Aside from the XC90, Volvo’s lineup ranges from old, to ancient, to paleolithic. Their new electronics system seems quite impressive. Great. Now roll it out on a brand new XC60, S60, S80, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      tremorcontrol

      Uh, I think that’s the plan… Give it a minute. The ‘Murican MBA bosses at Ford suffocated innovation and crippled any chance at regular releases.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree with you on the first point but Cadillac is finding out the hard way you can’t out German the Germans – and Cadillac had a great deal of money and resources to draw on. Volvo would be wise not to directly compete with any of its German rivals but position itself as a reliable European alternative to said Germans. if this meant a ten year product cycle so be it as long as the product cycle allowed the brand to remain competitive.

      • 0 avatar
        Alfisti

        Thats what i jeep saying but Volvo just DO NOT LISTEN. Even if the car is worth german pricing, people wont PAY it.

        Their entire positioning is wrong, they should come down half a step and fill the void vacated by saab and vw. Subaru are quickly doing so, volvo need to move fast or they are gonna die.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          They can’t come down, their cost of production is too high. It’s the reason they tried to move upmarket in the first place, they HAVE to. It’s the same rock and a hard place situation that Saab was in. Great cars for about $10K less than MSRP, but not really competitive when the Germans are only a little more expensive, and they don’t have deep pockets to put serious cash on the hood to move the cars.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          The problem with this is that there really isn’t room in today’s market for the “premium but not luxury manufacturer” in the way that they existed in the 80s and into the 90s. Mass market brands have added upscale products and you can get cars as plebeian as a Hyundai Elantra with leather interiors, navigation, radar cruise control, etc. And the luxury brands have full lines including SUVs of all sizes and even compact cars now. Saab existed because they made nicer cars than mainline brands but smaller (and cheaper) cars than luxury brands, but now Mercedes, BMW, and Audi make small FWD cars. Plus, other than the latest and greatest of gizmos, luxury and mainline brands largely share feature parity and the differentiator now is largely materials quality, build quality, and brand prestige.

          Subaru has successfully picked up a lot of the customers who would have bought those brands in the past, but it hasn’t been by becoming the type of brand that those guys were in the 80s/90s. Subaru isn’t a premium brand, and doesn’t really pretend to be or position itself as one. They simply have a hook (symmetrical AWD), good marketing, solid if unexciting products (as far as their actual volume models go), and they’ve successfully co-opted Volvo’s old schtick of being a responsible choice for the middle class family who cares about the safety of their children. Plus their lineup was very well constructed to capitalize on the crossover boom while most other brands had to adapt and start cranking out vehicles with those qualities, while Subaru already had the Outback, Outback Sport (now XV Crosstrek), and Forester.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Volvo is looking less and less overpriced every day. The S60 is in A3/CLA price range, and it’s a bigger, safer car with better overall performance and economy. The XC-90 is also arguably better than the X5/Q5.

          I think it will take people a while to catch-on, but Volvo’s making all the right moves. As recently as a couple years ago, you wouldn’t blame someone for skipping Volvo after visiting the German luxury brands. Now it’s starting to feel like they are missing-out.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    New cars will come.

    I also agree with the simplicity approach – to me luxury is about buying something without worry because it is the best.

    But Volvo will have to do a lot to establish any of the credibility that the Germans have, and the fact that they consider them the competition is a joke.

    • 0 avatar
      tremorcontrol

      Tell us more about the last Volvo test drive you took… The cars are good if you’re not some ADD-riddled gizmo fetishist. The German brand snobbery you’re projecting is years of marketing inertia.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        I didn’t drive it, but my local Volvo dealer has a First Edition XC90 in their showroom that someone ordered and didn’t buy. It was fully loaded at $66,000. I spent a good 20 minutes in the interior of that car, and can honestly say that there is nothing at a Mercedes dealership for less than $70,000 that can match the Volvo interior. And I know this because I have spent a fair amount of time recently at the Mercedes dealership.

        Let’s see how it drives and how it holds up before deciding if it’s overpriced. But if it is, it’s not because of that interior.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          “how it holds up”

          Yes, come back at year four, and have a look at all the finish rubbed off buttons, and leather with severe creasing, and discolored wood trims and exterior bits. And rippled window moldings.

      • 0 avatar
        akatsuki

        Pretty defensive there for what is just a car brand. The new XC90 looks really nice, I don’t deny it. But…

        Marketing inertia or brand cache or whatever you want to call it, nobody considers Volvo in the same class as Mercedes, not even close. They are probably about on par with Acura, a second tier luxury brand, if that – at least Acura is reliable.

        It is a 10 year project minimum to bring your brand into that level – hell, look at Cadillac who has been trying forever but can’t crack it – so much so that they decided that product wasn’t enough and they just needed to raise prices and hope it worked out (which it won’t).

        Lexus, arguably the most successful of the non-Germans, IMO makes superior cars to any of them, but will never get a fair shake given that they are Japanese. The new GS is a superior sports sedan than the 5-series, but all the reviews spend their time on the spindle grill and nothing else. Audi gets plaudits for their drab interiors, when the Lexus ones are far nicer.

        So product isn’t going to be enough no matter what the car guys say. Volvo seems to discount their strengths as the family hauler of choice which led them to try and chase RWD German sedans with random FWD/AWD vehicles that never caught on. The XC90 works because it plays to their reputation and strengths – it is a European Acura MDX.

        If I were Volvo, I would just have a family of crossovers set at a slight premium to the Japanese competition before I bothered with sedans or anything else. Hell, I’d consider a premium minivan, something Acura is rumored to be considering but given Honda’s general slow approach, will appear in 2050.

        TLDR version – it takes more than product to move up to the big leagues in luxury.

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          “Nobody” is a pretty exclusive word. 10+ years ago – when Volvo didn’t yet have stunning product like the XC90 – my then father-in-law wanted a Mercedes. I send him to Volvo where he hit it off with the seller, saved a lot of money, and bought exactly the car he wanted. Mercedes’ of that age were pretty crappy, rusted out the instant you looked away, and were overpriced. Friends at his shooting range liked the car. He converted two Mercedes-guys himself and kept buying new Volvos until he died in 2012.

          So much for “nobody”. And I happen to have more examples.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          “at least Acura is reliable”

          I’ve heard from an Acura tech (who’s been with them since day 1) that they aren’t as reliable as they should be, or as they used to be.

          • 0 avatar
            Sjalabais

            Hard to pin down these words to real substance. Don’t they do well in rankings? Just as Volvo does in Europe?

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            These are warranty jobs so far, so customers aren’t necessarily aware of the extent of problems.
            He’s seeing a lot more electronic issues, and also some mechanical ones that Honda never used to have. For instance, timing chain engines sometimes skip a cog. Plugs sometimes fail catastrophically before they are scheduled for replacement.

            This was just the answer to a “how you been, how’s life at Acura?” question, so I may have caught him on a bad day. He did say that the techs at his shop are not buying Honda products for their personal rides anymore, which would be unusual for that particular shop.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Yay for this guy. I’m sure my iPhone can launch cruise missiles but I love that it takes only 3 taps to set up a specific text message.

    Having owned, adored, and ultimately divorced a Volvo, here’s my advice for getting their groove back –
    1. Keep it simple with your tech and allow much greater depth for those interested. But don’t scare granny or my wife away.
    2. Design interiors like Honda with much more elegant materials. And keep those “best seats in the house”.
    3. Buy the Ford Flex tooling. Volvo needs at least one boxy design, and now it’s available. I’s even on a Volvo-related chassis. (Ford didn’t do their research on this move – Flex may not sell in huge numbers but the demographics are very strong income-wise.)
    4. Increase your reliability. That’s what killed our Volvo-love.

    Volvo is a premium car, like Acura, Cadillac, etc. The above criteria can easily carve out a decent customer base of folks who want to step up from their Subaru’s etc or want a no-nonsense European car without a lot of the headaches associated with such.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      I endorse your Flex-ibility.

      http://s26.postimg.org/wyadsghrd/Flex_Volvo.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Reliability is nice, and most cars today are incredibly reliable compared to 3-4 decades ago, but what kills the aura of reliability is routine service and minor repairs requiring the equivalent of a house payment. That’s where simplicity of mechanical design comes in. Japanese cars are incredibly reliable, but once you have a significant repair, the design for ease of assembly works against ease of repair.

      I dumped my ’95 Altima when the mis-aligned upper timing chain guides started clicking, and found that the engine had to be dropped and the front of the engine disassembled to get at the chain. That was over 8 hours of labor for a Nissan tech, 10-12 hours for an independent shop. After 18 years in the So. Cal. sun, the car needed a paint job (and minor body work) too, and the cost approached the car’s retail value, so I dumped it.

      It’s bad enough that crush zones have turned fender-benders into repairs costly enough to total a 3 year old car, Volvo would do well to build cars that don’t require a routine maintenance bill in 4 figures, and don’t give mechanics headaches when something major happens.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I ordered a 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 about a month ago and simplicity is the #1 reason why I decided to buy one for our growing family. Safety was the #2 reason, oddly enough.

    I cross-shopped everything you can think of, even cars that haven’t debuted yet (electrified Germans) and the simplistic interior and design won us over. Some people don’t want a million buttons. I want a car that reflects the electronics I use on a daily basis like my mobile products (iPad, iPhone, yea yea I know, shoot me. They work well.)

    Additionally, I don’t like the attention or the stereotypes BMW or MB owners. I wanted something with class and luxury without coming off as pretentious. The XC90 is just that for us and if we’re the only people that buy one, I don’t care. I hope it’s a sales success because I remember the glory days of Volvo in the US and hope the XC90 restores some of that. I remember the family 240 and 740 from the 80s like I was yesterday.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      I think the XC90 will be a huge hit, especially with the PHEV version coming out ahead of the German rivals (and presumably ahead of the Model X as well).

  • avatar
    Czilla9000

    They should embrace their reputation for “WE ARE SAFETY” and go at it HAM.

    Remind people that driving is still very dangerous, despite safety improvements, and choosing another brand of car can kill you or your kids. You can’t do ‘Ring times if you’re dead.

    – Do stark cinematic TV ads (have JJ Abrams direct) reminding people how dangerous driving is. “Every 3 seconds…” Insert Hans Zimmer music.

    – Do cinematic TV ads showing how tough Volvos are engineered. Show their state of the art safety facility with Volvo engineers talking about safety design. Again, Hans Zimmer music.

    – Do cinematic TV ads showing their traffic accident response team in Sweden investigating car accidents CSI-style. Seriously, why doesn’t Volvo market them?

    Do cinematic TV ads with traffic accident recreations, and people talking about how recent Volvos saved their life.

    – Offer cars with excessive safety features, like bullet proof glass, etc. Get the gangsta’ demo (like Cadillac) on your side.

    – Do adds showing Volvos crashing into stuff hardcore and protecting their occupants better than the competition.

    – Build them like tanks.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Volvo aims to increase global sales from a targeted 500,000 in 2015, to 800,000 by 2020”

    I just found a buyer for Alfa.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • 28-Cars-Later: Nope, if its too small to be a sedan it should be a coupe and well, notgonnahappen.
  • millmech: What about the kids killed by the airbags?
  • PrincipalDan: We still need to applaud Honda for offering a 6 speed manual with the 2.0T.
  • FreedMike: I’ve actually heard good things about how that car drives. What turned you off?
  • FreedMike: Not tempted in the least. Why? Because the one thing that tempts me is performance capability, and none of...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States