We said the new Volvo XC90 would need to sell very well. It is, in fact, selling well. And given the sharp declines Volvo is reporting with every other model, we may have understated the need.
Globally, Volvo reported an all-time record number of sales in calendar year 2015. In the United States, however, even with the second-generation XC90 displaying signs of recovery, Volvo sales in 2015 were half the total achieved by Volvo 11 years earlier.
But in early 2016, Volvo’s big new SUV isn’t simply “displaying signs of recovery.”
Nearly half of all Volvos sold in America in the first-quarter of 2016 were XC90s.
We’re finally beginning to see the impact a new SUV can have in Volvo showrooms.
The second-generation XC90 posted a 209% year-over-year increase to 1,176 U.S. sales in July 2015. That equalled 796 more sales this July than last and the highest monthly total for the XC90 since December 2010.
So is Volvo back? Well, not quite. Not yet.
Because the auto market is so seasonal, year-over-year change is a valid figure to consider, but it’s less useful when the previous year in the year-over-year comparison was the 13th year in the model’s lifespan. XC90 sales in July 2014, for instance, were 88% lower than in July 2004.
We’re still a few months away from seeing the first new XC90s at Volvo dealers in North America and many more months away from discovering whether it can rescue the brand’s fortunes on this side of the Atlantic.
Like an overdue baby who doesn’t want to leave his mother’s womb for this cruel, cold, callous world, the XC90 must be planning to dig in its heels (or wheels?) as stevedores attempt to drive it off Swedish docks onto North America-bound ships. Surely Volvo’s newest three-row crossover can’t be looking forward to joining a family of progressively more disappointing vehicles.
Setting aside the fact that Volvo Canada didn’t sell a single S80 in November 2014 – that’s just plain embarrassing – the U.S. situation last month was especially poor. See, it’s not just the age of the outgoing XC90 that’s been bringing down Volvo sales. The brand’s other models, almost without exception, are selling at a far slower rate this year than last year even as the U.S. auto industry expands at a healthy 5.5% clip.
Volvo hasn’t been particularly discreet about the next XC90. Plenty of spy photos have been taken of the car undergoing winter testing in Scandinavia and hot weather testing out in the American southwest, though I don’t believe that this exact combination of swirly camo wrap and plastic cladding has been seen before. From the Arizona plates on the car it was likely used for desert testing as well. The Volvo engineers testing the mule for radio frequency interference weren’t going out of their way to hide what they were doing either.
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