Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip will be strapping on a helmet and racing for the Volvo Polestar team in the Swedish Touring Car Championship next year. Consider it returning a favor.
Despite its historic ties to the Scandinavian nation, Volvo hasn’t been Swedish owned in a decade. It was sold to Ford Motor Co. in January 1999 and then to China’s Geely two years ago. That maker has plans to launch production in its home market, leading some to worry if it wouldn’t eventually cut ties to Volvo’s homeland. Not to worry, officials have announced.
“Almost half of the approximately US $11 billion investments covering the years 2011 to 2015 will be spent in Sweden in the form of infrastructure for the new vehicle architecture and engine family,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Car Group. “This is a proof of Volvo Car Group’s determination to strengthen the company’s position as a Swedish car maker with a unique attractiveness on the global market.”
That’s not to say things will go back to the same-old-same-old at the now globalized company. Volvo is already well on the way to transforming its traditionally stodgy vehicle design language, as it has demonstrated with a number of recent products, such as the S60 and V40 as well as the Concept You show car.
The next step is to develop all-new platforms and powertrains that can compete in a world where buyers are expecting both better performance and improved fuel economy.
“Most of Volvo’s future car models,” the maker explains, will be based around what Volvo has dubbed its Scalable Product Architecture, or SPA. Similar in concept to the immensely flexible platforms under development at Volkswagen, the concept uses a group of mix-and-match modules and scalable systems and components that can cover products from subcompact to full-size.
Vehicles based on the SPA are expected to make up about two-thirds of Volvo’s future sales and, the maker said, should permit a clean break from the Ford-derived platforms now in its line-up.
“SPA makes us technologically independent, without any link whatsoever to our previous owner. The new architecture covers about two-thirds of our total sales volume,” explained Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research and Development.
Meanwhile, Volvo is also working up an entirely new line of four-cylinder engines that will use the new Volvo Engine Architecture, or VEA. The maker surprised observers and competitors alike when it announced it will switch to a four-cylinder-only strategy in a few years. That will include hybrid drivelines, including an all-new diesel-electric plug-in for the V60 that will produce 285 horsepower and, Volvo says, should get an average 124 miles per gallon.
“SPA and VEA sharpen our cars’ attractiveness in all areas – design, driving pleasure and quality down to the smallest detail. And of course we are at the same time boosting our core values of safety and environmental care,” said Samuelsson.
About a third of the money Volvo will invest in Sweden will go to the expansion and upgrade of existing facilities. The new engines will be produced at a plant in Skövde and assembly of all drivelines, including hybrid drivelines, will be integrated in the Torslanda plant in Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg.
The first product based on the new SPA architecture will be the next-generation XC90 crossover, due to reach market late in 2014.
As for Prince Carl Philip, it’s not clear whether he’ll do any direct pitching for the brand but he will definitely be driving a race-spec S60 in the Touring Car series next year. Declared one of the “20 Hottest Royals” by Forbes magazine, he has been a serious professional driver since entering the Porsche Carrera Cup in 2008.
“There is no tougher championship in Sweden and at the same time as I have respect for it, it motivates me greatly,” he says of his latest challenge.
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