V60's NZ chance a true power struggle

How tasty does a high-performance, electric-assisted medium station wagon sound to you? Volvo NZ is weighing up the pros and cons.

DELIBERATION about whether the first Volvo to offer a choice of two plug-in hybrid powertrains has a chance of New Zealand residency will depend on what our neighbour decides and is also flavoured by what Kiwis like.

The Chinese-owned Swedish brand has promised to offer some form of electrification on every all-new model it launches starting in 2019, but the first brand new car to deliver on this could be a hard call for New Zealand, the local distributor believes.

Coby Duggan, general manager of Volvo New Zealand, says there’s no doubt about the importance and potential NZ consumer acceptance of the electric hardware that Volvo intends to put into the new V60 car that Volvo formally unveiled to the public just last week at the Geneva motor show.

His concern is whether the new model, being a medium-sized premium station wagon, itself is ‘right’ for this market.

This type of car has become very much a niche choice as result of the big consumer swing away from road-dedicated fare and toward crossovers and sports utilities.

With that in mind, he suggests Volvo NZ might instead be more comfortable using a version of its XC40, a soon-to-land compact crossover, to be the flag carrier for the EV drivetrains destined for V60.

“It’s an interesting one … the new V60 is a stunning looking car, but it’s in a tiny and difficult segment of our market.”

Volvo has already announced that the XC40 will be built in a plug-in hybrid format, and since it and the V60 are on a common platform, it is anticipated that at least one of those powertrains in line for the station wagon will also see service in the soft-roader.

However, the V60 still stands a chance of coming here, should it be given the green light for sale in Australia because that makes it easier for the sales operation here to piggy back into their strategy.

“We are still closely linked with Volvo Cars Australia in respect to price, specification and what product is available to us.

“At the moment, I believe, Australia is still working through whether or not V60 will have a presence in their market.

“Personally I would still like it to be here, so necessarily as a super-extensive model range. I’m really conscious about much time, effort and money we’ve invested in the brand’s growth prospects … I don’t want to start turning down new product opportunities.”

But the volume might be modest, perhaps 20 to 40 units. Such a small count might see the factory ask why bother, but Duggan says growth is growth.

“Even if the car only delivered 20 extra sales that would be welcome, because they would represent incremental growth.”

Potentially, discussions about V60 – and the S60 sedan equivalent which has yet to be formally unveiled – will occur over the next year.

The V60 will offer in Europe with a new T6 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid that generates a combined 250kW from its petrol engine and electric motor. The second option is the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid that delivers 287kW. Because of this, and also because both models are all-wheel drive, they are considered performance fare.

The best performing base version of the orthodox V60 wagon is the D6 diesel that offers 211kW. Volvo also had a Polestar variant of the previous-generation V60 packing 270kW.

Currently, plug-in hybrids account for about 15 percent of Volvo's global sales in the models that offer the powertrain. These include the XC60 and XC90 SUVs, both of which are sold in New Zealand, and the V90 station wagon.

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson expects plug-in hybrid variants to account for up to 25 percent of the V60's sales. He foresees a similar take rate for the other models that Volvo offers with the powertrain.