It was only in 2015 when Volvo, the Swedish carmaker, sold over a half-a-million cars for the first time in its history. That turned out to be a bit of a sweet spot: Volvo sold 615,121 cars last year globally, and Volvo spent the years in between on a winning streak, with product that customers liked and a way of doing business that seemed neither flashy nor slimy.
It was somewhere in those years, before the pandemic, when a Volvo executive explained to me Volvo’s whole deal. “People say that you can’t make money selling low numbers of cars but that’s exactly what we do,” he said, correctly. For years they positioned themselves as the more tasteful alternative to the German automakers, and certainly classier than the American automakers, and definitely not concerned about volume like the Asian automakers. An automaker like Mazda, meanwhile, something similar, but also different, too.
Volvo is unique, in other words, and its alliance with Polestar, which wanted to be the anti-Tesla, was all the more evident. The debut of the EX30, the small-ish electric SUV that Volvo unveiled on Wednesday, is evidence that something else might be afoot, as Volvo now appears to aspire, sadly, to volume.
Automotive News quoted Volvo CEO Jim Rowan:
Volvo’s “small but mighty” first subcompact SUV will not only be the brand’s most affordable model — with a starting price of 36,590 euros in Germany — it will also be its quickest.
That combination is one of the reasons Volvo CEO Jim Rowan is confident that the EX30 will play a key role in helping the automaker achieve its 2025 targets of boosting global sales 95 percent compared with last year to 1.2 million, with half of those models being full electric.
He said Wednesday that Volvo expects the EX30 to be one of the brand’s best-sellers in the coming years and that it will “significantly contribute to our growth and profitability objectives.”
A global sales boost of 95 percent in less than a few years is a complete about-face for a brand that for many years did not pretend to care about phrases like “boosting global sales.” Another about-face is “small but mighty,” as modern Volvo has never really cared about being small nor mighty.
All of this worries me, because I like Volvo, the Volvo that was happy to toil away out of the spotlight. All of this also is confusing, because on paper, small and mighty and an electric car that’s affordable are all positive things, they just aren’t what Volvo has ever really been about. Volvo isn’t supposed to be the company that makes an affordable EV for the masses; that’s some Chevy Bolt shit. But that is the Volvo that we seem to have now.