Volvo’s future in motorsport, including its participation in Australia’s V8 Supercars championship, has been thrown into doubt after the Swedish company’s global marketing boss said it doesn’t fit with the brand’s core philosophies.
Volvo international marketing director Alain Visser told Swedish financial newspaper Dagens Industri that racing contradicted the car maker’s modern-day image.
“Motorsport does not conform with our brand, where we stand for smaller engines and safety,” Visser said.
“We are therefore pulling out of STCC (Scandinavian Touring Car Championship) for example as soon as the contracts permits.”
Volvo’s current contract with the STCC runs out at the end of 2015, while its V8 Supercars arrangement ends at the end of the 2016 season – just before the new Gen 2 Supercars regulations permitting turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines to compete are introduced.
Volvo Australia marketing and communications director Oliver Peagam told CarAdvice the company was committed to its current V8 Supercars partnerships but had made no decision about its racing future beyond 2016 at this stage.
"Volvo Car Australia has a contract with both Polestar and GRM to be involved in the V8 Supercars Championship through to the end of 2016," Peagam said. "At that point, as with every contract, it will be reviewed.
"Globally, Volvo has a long-term partnership with Polestar as their official motorsport and performance partner – Volvo’s direct involvement with motorsport now goes solely through Polestar."
Speaking with European motorsport website Touring Car Times, a Polestar Racing spokesman said the team’s position remained unchanged for 2015 but admitted its involvement would be assessed beyond that.
“We are going to continue racing in the 2015 STCC and V8 Supercars,” he said.
“The STCC contract runs out after 2015 and V8 Supercars after 2016. We are going to evaluate our participation after that, as we for example have done a number of times in the past for the STCC, a championship we have taken part in since 1996.
“We have a long-term contract with Volvo as the official motorsport and performance partner. The form of cooperation regarding motorsport between Volvo and Polestar is currently being evolved and we look positively towards the future.”
Speaking with V8 Supercars last month, new Volvo Australia managing director Kevin McCann threw his support behind the brand's involvement in Australia's premiere motorsport series.
"I think it is a great way to showcase our product and technology, it is a really wonderful rallying point for our staff and our dealer network, who need the motivation and enthusiasm to continue to work the market," McCann said.
"Sport is really a big part of our lives and if we want to communicate with the Australian public then sport is an ideal way to go. We are a car company so probably the most direct sport we can become involved with in a competitive sense is motorsport, and if we can add that involvement, that active engagement with the marketing elements and the sponsorship elements it also comes with, then it should be a good thing for us."
Volvo enjoyed a successful debut season in V8 Supercars this year, with Volvo Polestar Racing/Garry Rogers Motorsport lead driver Scott McLaughlin finishing fifth in the championship on the back of four race wins and 10 pole positions, the latter equalling the performance of championship winner Jamie Whincup.
Late last month the team announced the signing of David Wall for the 2015 season, replacing Swede Robert Dahlgren, who is returning home to race with Volvo Polestar Racing next season.
In Europe, Volvo Polestar Racing driver Thed Bjork claimed his second consecutive STCC championship win in 2014, while teammate Fredrik Ekblom finished third overall.