Unprecedented sales success here for Volvo is not being stymied by the factory being unable to meet full global demand.
INTERNATIONAL production shortfalls of most popular Volvo models will not inhibit the resurgent brand from achieving a third year of record sales here.
The Auckland distributor has not revealed its target for 2016, but has expressed confidence last year’s 505 unit tally, itself a 84 unit increase over its 2014 result, can be beaten.
The tallies are not enough to lift the Swedish marque up with the prestige sector big boys - unlike Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW it has not achieved top 15 status in June or for the year to date – however the national representative has nonetheless become a giant within the brand’s realm, with a growth percentage that is especially high for any Volvo market.
However, Volvo NZ national manager Coby Duggan claims Volvo is now one of New Zealand’s fastest growing luxury car brands with mid-year sales tracking 54 percent ahead of the same period of last year.
Unsurprisingly, the brand’s new flagship XC90 SUV has been a particular sales champion; it is thought to accomplish at least 60 percent of local market volume.
Volvo here agrees the big seven-seater that comes in petrol, diesel and petrol-hybrid guise is riding on a wave of national interest in sports utilities that it estimates is five times the global average “making our market one of the fastest growing in the world.”
“Not surprisingly the XC90 has had a key role to play in the brand’s success both here and abroad – it was New Zealand’s most awarded car last year and we’ve seen unprecedented interest from owners of competitor product in the luxury SUV segment.
“The most exciting part is that the XC90 will be the oldest car in our showrooms in less than three years so the rate of product development right across the Volvo range is phenomenal,” he says.
Duggan says the NZ market performance is reflected internationally with the parent brand’s operating income of $928 million being three times that for the same period of last year.
He cites that Volvo is facing a global shortfall in production of around 15,000 cars and this will impact here.
“Ultimately it means the brand’s biggest challenge is keeping up with the customer order bank,” he says.
Duggan says the national Volvo dealer network has invested heavily in multimillion dollar
upgrades of their retail showrooms, with a number of these improved facilities due for completion within the next 12 months.
The next phase of the brand’s new-model onslaught will be the introduction of the S90 sedan and its V90 wagon; the first in November and the latter early in 2017. These are mechanically related to XC90 and carry the same suite of new safety technology.
The V90 is expected to also provide in Cross Country format, with a ride height boost and the usual crossover accoutrements such as extended wheelarches and extra black cladding.
Volvo has set a goal that no person will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020. To reach that target new Volvos will need to be equipped with new driving technologies, including advanced autonomous features.
The ‘90’ models have IntelliSafe Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous driving system that uses radar at up to 130kmh to maintain speed, lane discipline and safe distance using the lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control systems.
They also tout the latest version of Run-Off Road Mitigation, which detects the edge of the road as well as painted lines to help keep the vehicle from spearing off the bitumen at speeds between 65kmh and 140kmh. The XC90 has the first gen iteration that only detects the white lines of the road.
In May Volvo unveiled a pair of concepts that preview its future small-car range expected in early 2018.
Dubbed Concept 40.1 and 40.2, the pair signal the official launch of Volvo’s global small-car strategy that will be underpinned by the new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform and include optional full electric and plug-in hybrid drivetrains.
The 40 series family of small cars will incorporate the XC40 crossover, a small sedan that is likely to resurrect the S40 nameplate and a replacement for the V40 hatch.
Automotive News Europe reports that Volvo also plans to sell a model able to pilot itself along motorways by 2021, joining BMW Group in a promise of self-driving technology within five years.
Volvo will start testing vehicles with advanced self-driving features next year in Gothenburg, Sweden, London and China, eventually putting about 100 test cars on the road in each country with ordinary customers as drivers. The project is a stepping-stone toward systems that are able to take over without human intervention.
Unlike BMW, which announced its 2021 target together with Intel and Mobileye, Volvo is still looking for collaborators.
Putting hands-free driving on highways within five years will also require laws and regulations to keep up with technological advances, CEO Hakan Samuelsson said.