I really want to root for Volvo.
BMWs and Audis seem to get all of the Euro car love lately and that's just not right. A4s, 3-series, X3s, Q5s are all so ubiquitous these days and nothing to get excited about. And I'd argue that, while all of the German cars are handsome these days, there are few to get truly excited about. (There's going to be a front-wheel-drive BMW for crying out loud!)
Now a Volvo is different. Since the Swedes binned the "boxy-but-safe" design attitude, there isn't a really dull model in the range. Some of them, the S60 and C30 in particular, are downright gorgeous. It's kind of a sexy professor thing with Volvos, because the badge is still a symbol for safety.
Instead of embracing that solid, premium image, though, Volvo's US branch seems hell-bent on being a hot alternative to the common Germans. Is it working? Not really. The S60 and XC60 crossover are the only Volvos that sell in meaningful quantities (and are also reasonably competitive) in this country – and no one at Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Acura, Infiniti, Lexus, etc. is really about the numbers coming out of their Swedish rivals.
But Volvo doesn't have the same badge prestige as a Mercedes or a Lexus, yet its cars cost similar money. And the car that seems destined to save Volvo's bacon globally and give sales a shot in the arm, the V40 hatchback, pictured above, isn't coming to the US. Ever. As repeatedly told by Volvo's US brass when autojournos pester. That jacked-up V40 Cross Country or the blue-hot V40 R-Design? Never ever.
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What about the V60, the curvaceous wagon based on the S60 sedan, which also has a plug-in hybrid variant? Also, never ever ever. Both of these cars have been lauded by the European press, probably moreso than anything the company's flogging here.
Frankly, the V60 is the best of all worlds for greenies who traded in an upscale brand for something like a Prius or a Volt. The company recently sold all of the 1,000 trial run, but they could have shifted quite a few of them in the States, given the Volt's sales and how much better and more practical the Volvo is. Think about a posh, electric Volvo wagon: That's got upscale, tree-hugging soccer mom written all over it. You know, the kinds of people who recycle AND shop at Williams-Sonoma.
And the V40, well, that's the perfect replacement for anyone who has a Saab and doesn't know where to go. Months ago, Jalopnik decided Volvo was the new Saab and here's the most serious proof: a turbocharged, compact hatchback that's Swedish and immensly stylish. The sort of thing that quietly impresses, with a big turbo engine slapped up front that'll let the college provost smoke the kid in an Impreza at the lights. Tell me why this won't outsell an Audi A3.
I already tell people looking for a car in size A4/3-Series/C-Class to drive an S60 and they come away impressed. But outside of a couple models, Volvo doesn't have a lot going for it anymore and it shows in the numbers. Stuff like the V40 and V60 is buzzworthy and attention-grabbing, something to get other people in the showroom. By throwing all of their eggs into the S60/XC60 basket, Volvo USA is doing themselves a disservice.
What do you guys think about Volvo's current direction?
Photo credit Volvo