By on May 18, 2018

2016 Volvo XC90, Image: Volvo

The second-generation Volvo XC90 announced the brand’s confident and triumphant return to the forefront of automotive discourse. With its parental troubles behind it, the 2015 model year XC90 arrived with dignified, upscale sheetmetal and served as a styling template for future models like the S90 and XC60.

It also heralded the brand’s move towards downsized powerplants assisted by electric motors.

The company’s CEO, Hakan Samuelsson, sees a not-too-distant future where plug-in hybrids make up a quarter of its sales — an attainable goal on a global scale, given China and Europe’s fondness for such models. In the United States, though, Volvo’s plug-in XC90 — lately, anyway — seems to be headed in the opposite sales direction as its plug-free model. Slightly odd, as plug-in hybrids are ascendent in America.Speaking to Automotive News Europe, Samuelsson discussed the brand’s recent growth – not just in global sales, but also in product offerings. The compact XC40 crossover is the latest model to appear, but the XC60 gained a much-needed revamp for 2018 and there’s a new, U.S.-built S60 on the way. A third-gen XC90 will eventually join it in South Carolina.

Volvo doesn’t feel like spreading itself too thin. Hybrids are the go-to propulsion source for the coming years, it claims; other automakers can chase improvements in gasoline and diesel technology if they want.

“We are slowly but gradually increasing our gasoline engine offer because we strongly believe in gasoline engines with electrification,” said Samuelsson. “We are expanding our range with the T6 plug-in hybrid with less horsepower [than the top of the line T8 plug-in hybrid]. A T5 will come in the XC40 with electrification. That is what we are looking at because in the long run we believe the dominant powertrain will be a gasoline engine with electrification. I think by 2025 that 25 percent of our global sales should be plug-in hybrids.”

In Europe, the take rate for hybrids among 60- and 90-series buyers stands at 15 percent, the CEO claimed.

The U.S. is obviously a vastly different market, and plug-in hybrids, while on the rise, don’t enjoy nearly the same amount of volume. In April, plug-in hybrids accounted for 0.73 percent of the U.S. car market, which is better than the 0.64 percent seen over the first four months of 2017. It’s certainly a step up from the 0.53 percent take rate recorded in 2017.

The top-tier XC90 T8, Volvo’s first plug-in offering on this side of the pond, is a footnote in the U.S. plug-in market, despite the model’s sustained health. Helped by last year’s poor winter sales, overall XC90 volume rose 38.9 percent over the first four months of 2018. Volvo sweetened the pot late last year by offering a no-charge third-row seat in the base model.

Sales of the plug-in model, which boasts an extra 5 miles of all-electric range for 2018 (19 miles total) fell 9.1 percent, year to date. April volume declined 38.6 percent, year over year, to just 89 vehicles. With new plug-in models arriving at a regular clip, the XC90’s share of the American plug-in hybrid market has now fallen below 1 percent. The second-generation XC60 hybrid has outsold it since its first month on sale (January).

Again, different markets and different buyers. Samuelsson isn’t concerned about hybrid popularity in the U.S.; his concern is the coming launch of the new S60, which he claims will be targeted towards “a younger, more dynamic audience.” Built for domestic consumption and export, the S60 eschews an available diesel powerplant.

To help the automaker reach its green goal, all Volvos introduced after 2019 will feature some form of electrification, even if it’s just a 48-volt mild hybrid system that gently assists the gasoline engine in imperceptible ways. The first of many 48-volt Volvos arrives next year.

[Image: Volvo]

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14 Comments on “Volvo Boss Predicts a Plug-in-filled Future, but Americans Don’t Seem That Keen on the Brand’s Largest Greenie...”

  • avatar

    I was following the XC90 with great interest until I learned the price.

    It’s priced like a top-tier luxury vehicle, rather than a family vehicle. In other words, it’s under-branded for the price-point, and overpriced for green-car and high tech buyers (who will just buy a Tesla for roughly the same price).

  • avatar
    Gregg Mulry

    You failed to mention that the XC90 T8 hybrid is much more expensive than the other XC90 models, without adding much real world efficiency. The XC60 T8 sells better because it costs less. As Volvo adds more hybrids that fall in the price range of its current gasoline lineup, sales will increase.

    • 0 avatar

      As a green car / tech car guy, I wasn’t even remotely interested in the non-PHEV variants of the XC90.

      If I’m buying an old-fashioned explosion engine, I’d be better off with a Honda Oddysey then with anything Volvo makes.

  • avatar

    A Volvo XC60 T8 is one of my wife’s dream cars (the XC90 is too big). But at $60k reasonably equipped it’s not happening.

  • avatar

    Americans would think differently if they had to pay twice to trice what they’re paying right now for gasoline.

    • 0 avatar

      There are better options for fuel-saving vehicles.

      The XC90 PHEV is so wildly overpriced at $70k-104k that you can get model Tesla Model S/X for roughly the same money, and never use any fuel at all.

      For a vehicle with similar specs but better passenger hauling capabilities, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is a good choice at $45k.

      If a smalk car fits your needs, the Prius/Volt or Bolt/Model 3/Leaf 2.0 will save a lot more fuel than the XC90-T8, and for around half the price (starting at $35k).

      All of the options I mentioned cost a fraction what th XC90-T8 costs, and save more fuel.

      The XC90-T8 is just a poor value in the American green car market.

      The XC90-T8s actual competition is the BMW X5 PHEV, but BMW has better branding than Volvo when it comes to paying through th nose to separate yourself from the plebes.

  • avatar

    I have had a T8 XC60 plug hybrid now for 2 months. I have a short commute to work and this car has been perfect. I haven’t put any gas in it since 3/28/16 and the gauge is now at 3/4 of a tank. Almost all of my driving has been electic and based on the number of gallons of gas I’ve used versus the miles driven, I am getting 47.7 miles to the gallon. It is still going up. I hope to reach 50 mpgs soon.

    It is a volvo but it is a luxury car. It has the most comfortable car seats that I have ever sat on. It has all the bells and whistles and can drive itself too. You just have to keep your hand on the wheel.

    I love it

    • 0 avatar

      The current fuel blend typically varnishes in a year or less. Check with your dealer as to how long it is safe to leave unspent fuel in the tank. I would think Volvo actually thought of this and had a recommendation.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The price difference to add a plug-in feature to an XC90 is so high that it will likely never pay off financially for most buyers. Therefore it is something people would buy to make a statement. As such it can be expected to sell in modest quantities.

    Comparing Volvos optional plug-in take rates to more bargain price entries like the Form C-max isn’t really valid. Here in California, people lease plug-in C-maxs for that precious car pool alone sticker. They may never plug them in, but still get the sticker and a commuter car for a few hundred buck a month.

  • avatar

    I owned a 2016 XC90 T8 for a year. Hated it. Loved it when it worked, which wasn’t often. I constantly had issues with it and it left my wife stranded on more than one occasion. It spent many days on a tow truck and at the Volvo dealer.

    The last straw was when we returned home after a long flight after my infant daughter’s surgery. Of course, it was dead and wouldn’t start. We replaced it with a Yukon XL Denali. The interior isn’t as nice as the Volvo, but it has more space, a burly V8 and most importantly, it starts every morning.

    I told everyone who asked NOT to buy one.

    • 0 avatar

      I had that issue with my 2017- batteries constantly dying. It took a month or two, but it got fixed with a software update. I haven’t had any problems since, and it’s been about 18 months. I love the car and fully plan on buying or leasing a new one when my lease expires!

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