The regeneration of the Volvo brand as it aims to establish itself as a stylish European alternative has reached its first milestone, and the next two goals will be completed in the coming two years, the brand’s chief says.
It has already done all it will do for the 90 series, with the XC90, S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country all on show on the one stand together for the first time in Detroit. Now the focus shifts to the smaller range of cars in the 60 series (S60, V60, V60 Cross Country, XC60) and 40 series (currently V40 and V40 Cross Country).
Pictured above: An artist's representation of how the new-generation Volvo S60 could look.
“We will soon present to you also new cars in the 60 and 40 series,” Samuelsson said at the event. “And two years from now, we will have completed the biggest rollout of new products in the company’s history – making the award-winning XC90 the oldest car in the line-up.”
Volvo says part of the reason it can turn around so many new products so quickly is because it doesn’t suffer the complexity issues of some of its larger (German) luxury car competitors.
Samuelsson said the company’s main architecture (known as SPA) will be used with the 60 series models and has already been used for the 90 series variants, while another architecture developed by Volvo’s parent company, Chinese organisation Geely Automotive, will underpin the 40 series models.
It is expected the first new model we will see as part of that rollout will be the first ever XC40, a compact SUV built in China, as presaged by the Volvo Concept 40.1.
“It will be coming this year, and then of course there could be further expansion,” Samuelsson said of the first member of the 40 series family.
After that it is likely that the new-generation Volvo S60 sedan will debut at Detroit in January 2018.
“Last year we also saw construction starting on our new plant in Charleston, South Carolina. In a bit over 12 months from now, production of the all-new S60 will start in this country. That means we are investing and creating jobs in the US, direct employment jobs as well as indirect jobs with suppliers and so on.”
Lex Kerssemakers, president and CEO of Volvo Cars America, told CarAdvice the investment in the US was a move to satisfy market demand.
"The sedan version – the S60 – will be produced in Charleston for the US, half for the US approximately, the rest for Asia and Europe. Just S60. V60 will be produced in Sweden. XC60 will also be built in Europe, in Belgium,” Kerssemakers said.
Pictured above: The current-generation Volvo S90.
“It’s very simple: the S60 sedan is the most popular segment in the United States; the V60 is in Europe, so that’s why we split it. And the volumes are too high to put in one factory anyhow, so that’s why we split it, so they will be built in two factories,” he said.
So, S60 will be first for the 60 series, then probably the V60 at Geneva 2018, and the XC60 maybe a month or so later. Where does that leave the rest of the 40 series models?
Samuelsson explained: “I think with the 60 we will basically see the same top hats,” he said, referring to the fact there will be the S60, V60, V60 Cross Country and XC60, as is the situation today.
“But with the 40 series, so far [at the moment] we only have a hatchback – but of course we have said that a small SUV would probably be at the least the number one,” he said. “And then of course there could be further expansions on that. A sedan could also come then.”
And for fans of Volvo’s interior treatment – including the tablet-style infotainment system with over-the-air updates and, now, even Skype connectivity – there’s good news: the smaller model lines will likely share the same media systems, and more.
“You shouldn’t be misled by the number of cars, you should be looking at the number of central units – that’s where you have the efficiency,” Samuelsson said of the fact the brand will use just two architectures and a range of identical engines and components across the model lines.
“It's very likely [the lower series models] will have the same electronics screen, which is of course cost-efficient, but also valuable for the consumer because they love that. So it should be perceived as a Volvo, but also brings up the volume to a very high level,” Samuelsson said.
Kerssemakers suggested there had been lessons learned by Volvo in the past about platform sharing and component borrowing from different brands, but now that the company has more independence – despite being owned by a big Chinese player – it can shape the cars it wants to build in the way it wants to build them.
“We have been working together with Renault in the very far past, we have been working with Mitsubishi, we have been using technologies and engines and platforms from Ford,” Kerssemakers said.
“And now we took the lead of the development of the C-platform cars, very much with the same philosophy as the SPA, as the big platform, and that we share with – wherever we can share – Geely.
“It works. We have no fear that there will be any sort of brand dilution, as long as you do it cleverly,” he said.
“Sharing of parts is all over the industry without any brand dilution – you just walk around here,” he said of the plethora of models on show in Detroit.
So is that it? The three model lines with no coupes, no convertibles and no sports cars? Well, the T8 drivetrain will be offered in all models, Samuelsson confirmed, which means the V40/XC40 model will be available with a 400-horsepower (298kW) petrol-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Yowsers.
As for different body shapes, though: “Maybe, but if you look into this first space, then it’s complete,” Samuelsson said of the 90 series range, before suggesting there could be something else a little further down the track – maybe even like the amazing looking Volvo Concept Coupe, pictured above.
“Long-term there could of course be new [model derivatives] – first step is we want to have a wagon, the V, the S sedan and the XC. We will introduce similar cars for the 60 and 40 concepts, that’s step one,” he said.
“And after that of course you could think about other cars, but then you’re on the other side of 2020.”