Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Future crossovers/stations from Volvo

A recent article from Autocar discusses a change of design language at Volvo, focusing less on traditional stations and more on soft-crossovers: something like future BMW PAS; Mercedes R-class, that sort of things. There’s a distinct smell of public relations/marketing spin in the article but anyway, what do we know, right?

The new higher-stations are still a couple of years away so we wonder if this effort is too late. Actually, there is plenty of stuff to criticise in the recent strategy of Volvo. But it is worth pointing those mistakes and establishing ideas for the future because if Ford can keep this brand it has a lot of potential. Much more than Jaguar or Land Rover or Aston Martin. The great thing about Volvo is that you can make Volvos out of Fords without too much hassle or investment. Jaguar needed dedicated RWD platforms, Aston Martin means exotic jewellery and Range Rover also needed huge investments in luxury platforms. It’s much easier with Volvo, the brand is not quite luxury like BMW or Mercedes but it’s closer to smart premium like Audi. Most high volume Audis are simply VWs (and that includes Skoda and Seat), sharing most of the engines and bits. Ford can do the same with Volvo, easily, without much hassle and with adequate marketing investment. But it needs to be properly done and planed within the brands demographics.

Starting with an important mistake that is the size of Volvo cars. Check the S40, it uses the Focus platform but it was meant to fight the 3-series. It’s too small. Just like the S60 is too big to fight the 3-series and the S80 is too small to fight the S-class. You see, Volvo cars are in the middle of size classes. So Volvo needs to adjust sizes: the C30/V50 fights the Audi A3, a new Mondeo-based should fight the Audi A4 (although it could be a bit smaller than the Mondeo and use some Haldex system for AWD versions), and so on. Volvo cars should be of the same size of their competitors, not sit in the middle of size classes.

On SUVs and crossovers: Volvo had a great hit with the XC90. But then it took ages to make a smaller competitor to the X3. Only now the XC60 is arriving to the market, with lots of competition and a questionable front-end design. Next year BMW will have this SUV range: X6, X5, X3, X1, plus MINI-SUV…

The new higher-stations can be related to people-carrier platforms. Which bring us to the following: the major Volvo keywords are safety and family. Safety and family… so why is it that we never had a Volvo version of the C-Mar or S-Max Fords? We understand that this type of vehicles is not very important in the American market and/or associated to premium image but still… they can be easily transformed to sophisticated people-carriers with adequate design and marketing… just like the next BMW PAS and the R-class Mercedes. Volvo has available platforms to do this type of vehicles fast and cheap, so do it fast, cleverly designed and with the adequate marketing investment.

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