Volvo’s sales director tells JAMES BATCHELOR the company has a big task on its hands getting its message across… but that the public’s perception of the firm is changing
With the Polestar concept and the C30 electric, has Volvo turned a corner in terms of its public perception?
To be honest, I think it is a long process and we still have further to go. If you look back, we started the process 20 years ago with the 850 and it has been a long process since then. But, having said that, if you look at the products we have available now, they really are class-leading. People who are familiar with our current product have a very different perception of Volvo; the challenge we face is to get our message across to people who have never considered a Volvo before. We’re getting there but it is a big task.
Are you performing on track at the moment?
We are having a pretty good year this year and when we look at the year-to-year comparisons we’re down slightly but that is largely due to the very strong result we had with scrappage last year. We were the best performing premium brand in absolute terms and that was very good news at the time – but I think this year the numbers will be very similar to last year and we can take encouragement from that.
Has DRIVe bettered your expectations?
It’s in fact matching our expectations – although we could do more with DRIVe. I think as a sub- brand it is beginning to get momentum. There is no doubt DRIVe products are fantastic, and the V50 stands out for me as a great example. It’s a five-door family estate car that emits under 100 grams of CO2, and with S60 and V60 DRIVe, the orders are really beginning to pick up for us.
With strong sales of DRIVe and the V60 plug-in-hybrid, is there a business case of an electric C30?
The C30 electric is not a full-scale production car which will be produced in right hand-drive in any event. It’s better to view the C30 all-electric as a test-bed with customers to gauge their reaction to that technology.
Would you have liked to have had any C30 electrics?
I would have liked to have some here but in terms of the engineering costs in producing a right-hand-drive variant it doesn’t stack up.
Are you confident the plug-in hybrid could be a sales success?
I am very confident – I think it will be a really differentiated offering in the market here. A proper performance hybrid with 49 grams of CO2 but with nothing sacrificed in terms of driving dynamics or performance will really stand out. It is a real feat of engineering and I think it will definitely appeal to people who want to reduce their carbon footprint but don’t want to sacrifice the pleasure of driving.
What are your sales expectations of Polestar upgrades?
It depends on product as we’re not looking to put Polestar upgrades onto every single car. Certainly there is a strong demand for these products but I think in terms of percentage take on retail cars we should be looking at around 30 per cent take- up as an average. We’re not giving dealers targets as it is just a proposition for customers, but we are encouraging dealers to promote it.
Volvo US recently axed the V70 – would you ever do this?
No. In the UK the V70 is an iconic estate car and has a large following. It represents what Volvo stands for as much as any other vehicle, and the US decision reflected the fact that the XC70 was a much more popular vehicle there – here that isn’t the case. We have no plans to withdraw it.
With the XC60 being a strong seller and a new XC90 coming, could the XC70 still be an important car going forward?
Absolutely, and in fact our XC70 sales grow year on year. That’s because it offers something different to the XC60 with buyers preferring the lower ride- height and lower access. The XC70 fits a definite customer’s requirements and I don’t think that will change.