By on June 26, 2019

2019 Volvo Cars USA full lineup - Image: Volvo

Thanks to the increasing popularity of its two most affordable models, 2019 appears to be the year in which Volvo’s U.S. operations will appear firmly and solidly back on track.

For the first time since 2007, Volvo is set to sell more than 100,000 vehicles in the United States. At the current 6 percent growth rate, Volvo is on track for a 12-year high. 60 years since the Swedish brand landed in America, and nearly a decade since its U.S. ownership phase ended at the hands of Ford, the now Chinese-owned marque is on the ascent for very much the same reason it was when setting sales records in 2004.

A mix of popular utility vehicles and growth from its entry-level models.

Of course, one key difference between 2004 (when Volvo USA reported 139,384 new vehicle sales) and 2019 relates to the fact that those two categories have merged. Volvo’s most affordable vehicle, the $33,700+ XC40, is also an appealing utility vehicle with steadily improving sales figures.

2019 Volvo XC40 white - Image: Volvo

Through the first five months of 2019, the XC40 and new S60 sedan have produced more than 7,000 additional sales for Volvo, compared with the same period in 2018. The gains produced by those two models are of huge consequence – the rest of Volvo’s lineup is down 15 percent this year. The under-$36K duo now accounts for 34 percent of the brand’s U.S. volume, nearly double their share from a year ago.

The XC40/S60 gains, should they hold, will be responsible for driving Volvo into a new era as a moderately high-volume premium brand. Though far from the heights of Mercedes-Benz and BMW – with more than 250,000 sales between them, year-to-date – Volvo is further separating itself from Jaguar to produce the kind of regular output we see from Land Rover. (Yes, those three are all former Ford-owned brands from Jacques Nasser’s Premier Automotive Group days.)

This latest surge from Volvo comes after a post-recession seesaw that produced growth in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2018 along with declines in 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2017. We’ve seen growth like this from Volvo in the past, as the brand roughly doubled its sales between 1980 and 1985, the first time Volvo reported more than 100,000 sales in the United States. In the late 80s, Volvo sold more than 100,000 cars four times in the span of five years before slowing considerably in the early 90s, according to CarSalesBase.

New Volvo S60 R-Design exterior - Image: Volvo

Volvo once again picked up steam as the 21st century approached, rising 39 percent between 1996 and 2000. It was the 2002 launch of the first-generation XC90 that propelled Volvo to its record sales achievements in 2004. Nearly three in ten Volvos sold in America that year were XC90s; the XC70 accounted for better than one in ten.

XC-branded models are far more important to the brand now, even with the third-generation S60 finding more than 1,300 buyers per month. For every passenger car Volvo sells, Cross Country versions of the V90 and V60 included, Volvo sells four XC models: XC40, better-selling XC60, or top-selling XC90.

Here’s another way of looking at it. Those three utility vehicles are on pace for around 87,000 U.S. sales during the 2019 calendar year – that’s more than the number of Volvos sold, in total, in the U.S. in 10 of the last 11 years. And while the XC40 is the least common of the three, it’s easily the most competitive in its segment.

BMW’s class-leading X5, for instance, outsells the XC90 by a 58-percent margin. A segment below, the Mercedes-Benz GLC sells more than two copies for every one Volvo XC60. But in the entry-level premium crossover segment, the XC40 takes the fight to the Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X3, trailing each of the Germans by little more than 200 units per month. The XC40 was very nearly the segment leader in May.

That fact should tell you something about Volvo’s future in the United States. Never has the Swedish brand, famous for its safety reputation, ever been put on the same pedestal as the primary German luxury automakers. Despite high style marks across the brand, a Volvo simply doesn’t have the same cachet. An S60 doesn’t carry the same weight as a 3 Series, an XC60 doesn’t make the same statement as a GLC, a $105K XC90 Excellence doesn’t seem as deserving of its price stratosphere as a Range Rover.

But in the XC40, Volvo is the conspicuously de-commodified option. The X1 and GLA represent the Germans’ push downmarket, and however effective and improved they may be in second-gen forms, they seem to share little in their mission or appointments with the 7 Series and S-Class flagships that for so long defined their brands.

The XC40, even as the semi-affordable Swede, still embodies the essence of Volvo. It is the first Volvo since the first XC90 that may well beat the Germans at their game in the marketplace. And it’s the Volvo that’s likely to shove the brand back into the swing of things as a six-digit seller in the United States.

[Images: Volvo Cars]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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37 Comments on “Volvo USA Is Having Its Best Year Since 2007 As 2019 Sales Are Set to Top 100,000...”

  • avatar

    As long as they keep making the most comfortable seats and more SUVs they will do just fine.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on the seats. They might consider a side-gig of building seating for other manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar

      10/10 – would replace the more than adequately comfortable seats in my Audi with Volvo made aftermarket replacements.

      I last rode in a Volvo in 2013. An XC90….I want to say a 2006? It was purchased new by a friend of mine, and at that point had 150K + miles on it as she traveled for work.

      Even with the age, still the best damn car seats I have sat upon. If Volvo were to offer their seats for sale, I’d pull the trigger.

    • 0 avatar

      They’d do better if they brought switchgear back for basic HVAC and audio functions. And a button for auto stoop/start as well.

  • avatar

    The real test isn’t now – it’s five years from now, when the supercharged/turbocharged fours have 100,000 miles on them. We’ll see how the long term durability is.

    • 0 avatar

      No one keeps these new Volovos that long. They are leases a great majority of them. 3 years/30,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar

      Brother had an XC90 and was flawless. but he leased, lol.

      I doubt that even 2% of high-end Volvos are driven to 100,000+ miles by their first owner.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      I’ll let you know how reliable it turns out to be. We bought a ‘17 in January with 22k on it, already has 30k. It replaced an Odyssey we bought new and put 164k on in 7 years.

      Seems like Volvo is asking for trouble recommending 10k oil change intervals on a turbocharged and supercharged engine. No way I’m doing that.

      • 0 avatar

        Ramrod, you might feel better about those 10K oil changes once you price one out. (rimshot)

        If Volvos are anything like Audis, the guy at Grease Monkey instantly adds $50 to a standard oil change once he sees you rolling up. Something about “needing a special oil filter” or something. Interestingly enough, a GTI, which has the same engine as my A3, apparently needs no special oil filter, just a synthetic oil change. Amazing how that works, isn’t it?

        Actually, if a car takes synthetic oil (which I’m sure yours does), 10K should be OK, but I see why you’d want to be cautious with that engine.

        • 0 avatar
          Car Ramrod

          Ha! I figured part of the reason they set the intervals to 10K was to limit the number of freebies they have to give within the included maintenance period. Anyway, no reason not to be extra cautious.

          It can’t be more expensive than the 10w-60 that my other car “requires”. If it’s really pricey I’ll just raise the air suspension all the way up and do it myself. There’s a DIY tutorial on swedespeed

    • 0 avatar

      On one hand, it’s a relatively new implementation of tech for Volvo, but on the other, they do have about 40 years worth of experience building small boosted motors (and even the 850s, which seem to suffer from their share of early 90’s Euro biodegradable fragility seem to be perfectly capable of racking up big miles).

      • 0 avatar

        I’m waiting until I can snag a used XC90 under $30,000 (CAD). By then I hope there’s a consensus on these new engines.

        Maymar, you’re right, Volvo does have considerable experience with building engines so I feel less worried than if this was, say, Hyundai or Kia.

  • avatar

    Volvo is where Buick should be.

  • avatar

    Volvo is NOT Swedish, it is CHINESE!

    • 0 avatar

      Hey mods, can we get a filter that prevents someone from saying the same thing in every Volvo thread? The joke is stale.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not a joke – Volvo IS Chinese, that’s the truth, plain and simple, and those who claim otherwise are LYING.

        You should direct your complaint to the author of the “The Truth [sic!] About Cars” article above, which repeatedly LIES about Volvo’s nationality. It makes no sense to encourage the moderators to engage in Chinese-style censorship because of that. Are you PAID by the Chinese to ask the moderators to ask them to do just that?

        • 0 avatar

          Volvo is owned by a Chinese company.

          Volvos are made all over the world, including South Carolina.

          • 0 avatar

            And hence, a big chunk of profits go back to China, of which the PRC takes it cut to fund its military.

        • 0 avatar

          Is it okay to ask the moderators to do something about your baseless accusations against me?

          • 0 avatar

            Consider me puzzled. Volvo is indeed owned by a Chinese conglomerate, Geely Motors. Both the XC60 and the formerly Swiss made S90 are made in China (S90 in Daqing, XC60 in Chengdu). Volvo is effectively a Chinese company that makes some Chinese made automobiles (in addition to other locales of manufacture).

            That said, I cant see how quality would be any worse under Geely. They bought the brand to reinvigorate it and they have put a lot of yuan into improving Volvo quality standards.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Is a Dodge Charger Italian….or Canadian?

      Truly, in the global economy, it becomes an obsolete and, largely meaningless notion to identify a manufactured good by corporate headquarters location.

      A Toyota Tundra is assembled in Texas, using mostly North American components, while Fusions are built in Mexico and Buicks are built in China. Even Harley Davidson uses Asian components and European intellectual property….!

    • 0 avatar

      Volvo is a Swedish brand.
      Volvo was sold by Ford to Geely.
      NOBODY considered Volvo an American car company when it was owned by Ford.
      Volvo is still a Swedish brand.

      (People like “Asdf” are why I left this site. I came back to see if things had changed. NOPE!)

      • 0 avatar

        Fun Facts. Bet some of these rageaholics didn’t know they were supporting Justin Trudeau’s government when they were chomping down on their Whoppers or supporting the Chinese army when they went to see Avengers: Endgame:

        Budweiser: Belgian beer (InBev)
        Burger King: Canadian hamburgers (RPI Canada)
        GE Appliances: Chinese (Haier)
        American Apparel: Canadian clothing (Gildan)
        7-Eleven: Japanese convenience store (Seven Holdings)
        AMC Movie Theaters: Chinese movies (Dialin)
        Carmike Movie Theaters: Chinese movies (Dialin)

  • avatar

    Sad commentary on their products, but I wasn’t even aware a new S60 was out, and I’m a serious car nerd. It looks great, a massive improvement over the awkward aardvark-nosed, chopped-butt previous gen.

    The XC90 T6 that Enterprise graciously upgraded me to for a one way 8 hour trip was excellent on the highway with plenty of power and really looked/felt premium, but
    a) the touch screen is an accident waiting to happen
    b) the ride around town is crashy bordering on the absurd
    c) I wouldn’t trust that twincharged motor outside of warranty, no way, no how.

    • 0 avatar

      Testers and drivers of modern Volvos report a crashy ride, pronounced cabin noise, a delicate-to-jittery feel, swoopy styling, lovely interiors, excellent MPG, engines pushing the edge of the ICE technology envelope, and curb weight hundreds of pounds less than competitors. Apparently Volvo, of all makes, has gone full Mazda. I don’t know how they continue to ace every crash test while incorporating the Colin Chapman secret to performance — “add lightness” — but good for them, I suppose.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    “Volvo is where Buick should be.” Agree give it some more time and Buick will be owned by the Chinese. Buick already has a Chinese made Envision and at least a few of their offerings are designed in China. Maybe GM would be better off to sell Buick and Cadillac to the Chinese. If anything the Chinese might improve both.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Volvo consistently near the bottom of the JD Power Initial Quality rankings, and their repair costs are sky-high.

    My visit to the local dealer last year was chilly. They had no XC40s available except two high-end test drive cars, and they eyed me like an insect (presumably because I was only interested in the low-end XC40 under $40k, and I wasn’t dressed like a doctor). They declared that the car I wanted would be a 6-month wait, probably because they wanted to upsell me to a $55k model.

    Only minutes earlier, the Tesla store up the street treated me just the opposite.

    So when it comes to Volvo, I’ve lost interest for now – at least until the Polestar 2 arrives.

    • 0 avatar

      My S80 has nearly 100k with no repair issues, just had to get new tires. I go to my local mechanic though.. I feel the dealership would be much more expensive.

      Dare I ask what you wore to a dealership? Regardless.. I really think dealership staff should treat everyone the same. Plenty of billionaires wear T-shirts and shorts!

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Yep, jeans. No matter that I have decent income and excellent credit.

        In the mid-80s, a college friend wrote a research paper about his experiment of seeing how he was treated at various car dealers depending on his dress. He always wore a neatly trimmed beard and could have passed for early 30s with new money. As expected, his dress generally governed how he was treated, especially at the higher end mfrs.

        My pulling in with a 2009 Kia Sedona may have had an effect also.

        I know not all dealers are that way, but I left soured.

        But as I mentioned, the Tesla experience was exceptional – very respectful and no pressure. Ultimately I ended up with a Hyundai Ioniq EV, and Tesla has respected my wait and see approach until the Model Y is available.

        • 0 avatar

          I had the same experience at the Volvo dealer in my pricey coastal enclave. Salesman apparently was too stupid to know that there’s no distinction between the clothes worn by a beach bum and a millionaire tech bro out here. That dealer no longer exists.

          I had a very different, very welcoming experience at the one Volvo dealer serving the entire Inland Empire. Super nice, no rush, no pressure, actually knew about the product instead of making stuff up.

        • 0 avatar

          Tesla dealer was the same, 10/10. Relaxed sales approach, enjoyable atmosphere. Almost like an Apple store.. with less people.

    • 0 avatar

      Doctors and other professionals I know usually “dress-down” when they visit dealerships.

      Also know those who don’t take their S Class, etc. but drive their wife’s Buick Enclave or their “beater” vehicle to the dealership.

  • avatar

    I’d be willing to give modern Volvos a chance, even though my experience with a then-new S60 AWD was poor: clomped over bumps, lousy handling and braking, and lackluster acceleration. Huge turning radius, too. Of course I was comparing it to my E39, but still.

    It was leased by my girlfriend at the time. I advised her to get a 3 Series but she went with the S60, insisting that “Volvos are the safest cars.”

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