Volvo’s premium sedans haven’t been good enough to match the similarly priced German competition in recent years, the company's global president, CEO and board representative Hakan Samuelsson has admitted.
But with strong support from its Chinese owner, Geely, the iconic Sweden-based company is finally in a position to produce what it considers proper passenger car alternatives to the premium Euro status quo — something it has been doing in the SUV space for years.
It begins with the all-new S90 sedan launched last week in Detroit. The S90 replaces the aged S80 in the range, and rivals the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class — a new generation of which also premiered in Detroit with some seriously impressive autonomous tech.
The Volvo S90 sits on the same SPA architecture as the new XC90 SUV, and has a similar design inside and out. It also comes with advanced autonomous driving technologies and is available with a bold 'T8' plug-in hybrid powertrain. A V90 wagon premieres later this year.
“For the first time we, with this car, have an offering for customers who want to buy a sedan but want something different than the Germans…” Samuelsson said this week to media including CarAdvice.
“I think we have not been on their shopping list, to be quite frank. I think we did not have a real offering that could compete with those cars," he said.
"With this car we have now an offering, so also sedan customers can now buy the Volvo brand, and what the Volvo brand stands for, and that I think is the really interesting thing."
“Now we have an alternative for those guys also. SUV customers have always had a Volvo offer for them.”
The ’90 Series’ family is the first element in a product offensive, backed by $11 billion of support from its owner, that will see its whole range turned over by 2019. The company plans to almost double it sales by the end of the decade, to around 800,000 units — much of which will come from China.
Over the next few years, the company will launch brand new S (sedan), V (wagon) and XC (SUV) versions of its 60 Series and 40 Series models. Each may also spawn Cross Country crossover derivatives. No coupes are on the cards until the "bread and butter" models are developed, contrary to speculation.
The new S60/V60/XC60 will be based on the familiar SPA architecture, while the V40/XC40 (and potentially S40) will be based on a new platform shared with Geely.
Both of these model lines will be every bit as good as the Germans, Samuelsson stated. This means you can expect the next S60/V60 to be a real match to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and V40 (and maybe S40) to match the Audi A3.
“Yes, all our cars should… we should be a true alternative to the germans with our very distinct, very special brand offering which is premium but not a copy of them, that we should offer 40, 60 and 90 for SUVs wagons, sedans and crossovers.”
Samuelsson said Volvo remained committed to being a safety leader, and still worked to a stretch targeting of zeroing deaths in its cars. The company is making continuous steps into autonomous driving.
“Safety is part of our heritage and it would be very unwise not to be building on that,” he said. “And it is definitely not boring. Safety is going to come back into the focus, especially with autonomous drive. Safety will be a very exciting area to be within and we will do that.”
“Connectivity and autonomous drive cannot be underestimated. It will make the car much more attractive, especially if you sit for an hour a day in congestion. That time can now be used for much more productive things than sitting supervising a car.”
An Australian debut for the S90 is scheduled for about October 2016.
What do you think of Volvo’s new large sedan? Can it challenge BMW’s 5 Series and Mercedes’ E-Class for premium buyers? Tell us in the comments below.