Volvo to go one each way with new big offers

The S90 is described as the real test for a revitalised Volvo, and not just internationally. Given the low interest now in large sedans, will New Zealand’s distributor even bother?


HOW to sell a large luxury sedan? One option would be simply wait until it arrives in an alternate, potentially more appealing mega-wagon form.

That was a potential consideration for Volvo New Zealand in respect to the Chinese-owned Swedish brand’s new big thing, the S90.

The new big sedan – just unveiled in Europe - is a crucial car for Volvo internationally, but won’t have it easy in New Zealand because the consumer taste for this kind of car has fallen through the floor: Large three-box cars now command less than five percent of new car sales.

However, Volvo NZ said ignoring the car completely was out of the question.

Thus the Auckland-based distributor has gone for another strategy, a pitch that could be called the power of one: Insofar that just one version of this model is likely to be offered when it launches here in the third quarter of 2016.

“It’s likely to be one variant only but we are still working through specifics,” brand spokesman Coby Duggan told Motoring Network.

“It has a key role to play as Volvo’s flagship sedan showcasing the latest innovations in design and technology, but given the decline of the large sedan segment our volume aspirations are modest.”

Surprisingly, this attitude might also maintain when the S90’s station wagon sister ship, the V90, comes about six months after the sedan.

 “The V90’s presence in Volvo New Zealand’s line-up will be limited to the Cross Country (all-wheel-drive) model, due for release here early in 2017,” Duggan said.

 That surely reflects the strong continuity the as-yet-unseen load-all will have with the XC90 crossover, the brand’s 2015 new-era introduction that is also a close relation.

All the ‘90’ models use a common platform (the Scalable Product Architecture), the same engines, transmissions and wider technology.

 Despite the tough market situation, the S90 is expected to unsettle three major German offers – BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6 – plus the likes of the Lexus GS and Jaguar XF.

Volvo contends its offering will comfortably slot in with the established rivals thanks to a raft of “cutting edge safety” and up to the minute cloud-based applications and services.

New features include the Swedish car-maker's Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving technology, which combines existing camera and sensor technology for a system that can keep the vehicle in a motorway lane – another step towards full autonomy says Volvo

City Safety enables the S90 to brake for itself if an imminent collision is detected in an urban environment, but also works in a more rural setting for large animals.

Powertrain specifications are also still to follow, but Volvo has already indicated that the new S90 will be available with three engine options dubbed T5, T6, and T8 – all incremental versions of the same flexible new 2.0-litre inline petrol four-cylinder.

There’s potential that the ‘90s’ will also receive Polestar performance treatments in due course. Volvo now owns its Polestar division, which grew from its involvement in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, and is seeking to expand its remit.