Speaking to CarAdvice at the launch of the new XC90 in Spain, the model’s product manager, Lars Lagstrom, said the perils of Ford ownership would not have allowed the XC90 to be the car it is today.
“We were a bit forced to use a lot of components that were within the family, for instance the engines, the chassis setup, the steering, I mean the prominent factor was the big volumes for everything so they were into the scale of the purchase.” Langstrom said.
Ford Motor Company owned Volvo from 2000 to 2010.
“The big scale with a mother company has been restraint, restraint, all the time. So even though they have big muscles, they have bought lots of companies, it was not delivering as expected.”
“I mean they had Jaguar, Land Rover [and] Volvo. Of course they put a lot of pressure to deliver, [but] Jaguar is a Jaguar if it has heritage and components from a Jaguar and a Volvo is a Volvo if it has components from a Volvo and built like a Volvo should be. If you step away from that it’s not a complete Volvo and you’re not trustworthy to the customers and the customers don’t really want that car in the same way that its’ not truly a Volvo. It’s very difficult, you can’t do it [well].”
Volvo’s purchase by Chinese holding company Geely (which also manufacturers cars) in 2010 has led to significant investment into the Swedish brand with a range of new products on their way starting with the XC90.
“It’s good how it is now, it gives us free hands but you must deserve and earn the money we get for development. To make sure now that we are independent we don’t want to pay any royalties to other companies, so we want to make sure all our money is invested is in ourselves so that’s why we don’t buy engines, we develop engines.”
Volvo’s new Drive-E engines have been engineered and built entirely in-house, a feat not possible under its previous owners. Lagstrom dismissed the idea that trading Ford for Geely will result in a similar situation later on, with the new Chinese owner dictating the plan.
“They don’t dictate much. We are independent and we show that, we are working with the common platform for the next generation small cars (with Geely). This is the Volvo (only) platform for 60 and 90 (XC60, S/V60, XC90, S/V90) clusters but from 40 (S/V40, C30) and down we are looking at joint platforms with ownership of Geely.
Even so, the development of those joint platforms is based in Gothenburg in Sweden. With Lagstrom admitting “it’s more Swedish than Chinese.”
One of Volvo’s senior designers that has been with the company since 1999 also echoed the same sentiment towards the brands new owners.
“You can feel the inertia and energy within our brand, every time you’re interacting with people… there’s optimism and a belief that we can do things…” said Volvo’s lead interior designer Tisha Johnson.
“Geley has allowed Volvo to be more of a Scandinavian company. We are not owned by the car company Geely but the holding, that’s where we have the autonomy.”
The new Volvo XC90 arrives in Australian showrooms in August.