Two concepts that give first hint at the possibilities of Volvo’s latest compact car platform are set to spawn production lookalikes with definite New Zealand market potential.
OFFICIALLY they’re still design studies, but the 40.1 and 40.2 – respectively a crossover and a sedan – are the next XC40 and V40 cars that Volvo New Zealand hopes to on sale here by early 2018.
Concepts revealed overnight in Gothenburg, Sweden, provide the first public look at the possibilities provided by the brand’s new Compact Modular Architecture platform, which is set to also underpin a range of cars from Chinese parent company, Geely.
More specifically, they are also thinly disguised pointers to the impending 40 series line that will span an SUV, sedan and hatchback as well as an all-electric model.
The 40.1 (below) is thought to be a virtual doppelganger for the next XC40 soft-roader that Volvo Cars NZ national sales manager Coby Duggan agrees is especially important to Volvo NZ, given that SUVs already capture around 40 percent of all new vehicle here already, with more predicted.
The new model is expected to be the first of the CMA vehicles here, with release timed for early 2018.
"The XC40 will be the first ... which is great given the importance of compact SUV's to the luxury market here and the fact that we're currently underrepresented in that segment," Duggan told Motoring Network today.
"The skew towards SUVs has been accentuated for us by the success of the XC90 launched last year, to the extent that 60 percent of Volvo sales in New Zealand are now accounted for by our SUV line-up (XC60 and XC90), a pattern which we expect to continue for some time yet."
The 40.2 (above, right), meantime, surely translates as a V40 road car that is also due to reach the showroom before the end 2017.
Both studies do more than point to the latest styling direction. They’re also technology centerpieces for advanced drivetrains that also have a road-going future.
The 40.1 features a hybrid powertrain with a three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol turbo engine working with an electric motor and a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
The 40.2 is even more radical – it has a fully battery electric powertrain that Volvo is hinting will deliver more than 350kms’ range.
Despite carrying the same engine branding as the T8 all-wheel-wheel-drive flagship of the XC90 range, the XC40 will be front-wheel drive.
The petrol engine produces 134kW and the electric motor adds 55kW, with power coming from a 9.7kWh battery pack mounted in the centre of the car. Volvo claims a total combined output of 180kW for the petrol-electric powertrain and cites 50km of pure electric range. Fuel economy and CO2 numbers haven’t been released yet.
The gearbox is smart, according to Britain’s Autocar magazine, which attended the unveiling. It says the electric motor acts on one of the dual-clutch shafts (the one that handles second, fourth, sixth and reverse). This gives it the potential to add boost through one of the shafts while the internal combustion engine drives the other.
The 40.1 and 40.2 styling carries through much of the form language of Volvo’s larger products, with front-end design similar to the XC90 and new S90.
Volvo says its aim with these models is to compete with the likes of Audi and BMW for younger, urban consumers and the plan is to push up Volvo sales by about two-thirds.
The new platform is also expected to provide significant growth opportunity for Chinese-branded product also by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. The potential for that product in this market is unknown.
Volvo’s new compact cars will “have an energy, a disruptive and engaging urban character that makes them stand out among the crowd,” Thomas Ingenlath, the Swedish carmaker’s design chief, said in the statement during the international preview. “This is the flavour of small Volvos to come.”
That's heartwarming comment for Duggan: "The concept imagery looks fantastic.
"We don't know anything more than what is seen in the global press release in terms of product detail (but) naturally we're looking forward to the extended next generation of the 40 series."
Volvo has a medium-term target of boosting deliveries to about 800,000 vehicles from 503,000 last year to compete against much larger luxury-car rivals like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Urban-oriented vehicles are one of the key areas for growth in the segment. Mercedes’s push to pass BMW in sales is fueled largely by small models like the GLA SUV and CLA sedan.
Gothenburg-based Volvo has been modernizing production lines in an $11 billion project since Chinese billionaire Li Shu Fu’s Geely bought the company from Ford in 2010.
The XC90 SUV that has been available in New Zealand since last year was the Swedish company’s first model wholly developed and produced under Geely’s ownership.
The 40 series will involve the two carmakers’ first major joint engineering work, which saves development costs for the lower margin vehicles.
Volvo’s plant in Ghent, Belgium, will produce the new small cars. The factory has capacity to make about 300,000 vehicles annually. Geely has nine manufacturing sites in China.