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China Soon to Be World’s Top Luxury Car Market

Sales of premium models expected to double by 2020.

by on Jun.04, 2013

The new Cadillac XTS gets a splashy launch during China's annual auto show.

It would be tempting to say that James Wang is living the American dream – if it weren’t for the fact that he’s living in Beijing.

The mild-mannered 27-year-old is a self-made mega-millionaire, earning his money building golf courses for the country’s fast-growing leisure class. And like so many of his American counterparts, the young entrepreneur is addicted to automobiles, with a fleet of vehicles ranging from a Subaru WRX STi to a Porsche 911 and even a Maybach M62 in his garage.

While Wang may have a slightly larger personal fleet than most Chinese motorists he’s far from unusual in his taste for premium automobiles.  Luxury cars today fill the streets of many booming Chinese cities, notes Fu Qiang, president and CEO of Volvo Cars China, noting that “All the forecasts call for China to become the world’s largest premium market by 2016.”

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The country is already the largest national automotive market in the world, pushing past the U.S. several years ago. And Chinese industry groups have estimated overall annual demand could surge to 38 million in little more than a decade, exceeding sales in the U.S. and the European Union combined.

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Internet Abuzz About Volvo Teaser Campaign

Swedish maker may be pulling off a surprise.

by on May.17, 2013

Volvo's new teaser campaign leaves everyone guessing.

The Internet has been abuzz about the possible hidden meaning behind a trio of short video teasers from Volvo. With the tagline, “Leave the World Behind,” each features a member of the once-popular band, Swedish House Mafia, along with a mysterious vehicle that, the rumor mill is betting, could be the prototype of a new crossover.

Now owned by China’s Geely, Volvo promises to solve the mystery later today at a European news conference. But sources have spilled the herring, as it were, and TheDetroitBureau.com can clue you in on what to expect.  Actually, we’ll start by telling you what not to expect: a new car.

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While TheDetroitBureau.com’s sources wouldn’t reveal all the details, they hinted that what we’re witnessing is a reunion of the once popular group — though considering the fact that the three Swedish House Mafia band members appear in separate teaser videos, we’ll have to wait to see how they all come together.

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New Volvo System Spots Pedestrians, Cyclists, Make Emergency Stops

Maker working on next-gen model capable of spotting animals.

by on Mar.07, 2013

Volvo's system uses a combination of radar and vision sensors to spot obstacles.

Volvo is launching a new safety system capable of spotting not only pedestrians but even bicyclists weaving in and out of traffic.

The latest update of the maker’s well-regarded City Safety technology, the system is designed to sound an alert if it spots a potential collision. But it’s also capable of bringing the vehicle to an abrupt halt, if necessary, should the driver be distracted or not respond in time.

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The initial version of City Safety, first launched in 2010, was designed to look for other cars, but Volvo has taken advantages of advances in vision processing, data crunching and software to continually update the system, which uses both a camera hidden on the windshield side of the rearview mirror and a radar sensor in the vehicle’s grille.

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Volvo Making Life a Little Brighter with New Active High Beam Headlamps

A bright alternative to dimming your lights.

by on Mar.01, 2013

Volvo's new system allows the driver to leave the high beams on almost full-time.

New technology has become as important to motorists as new cars, it seems, and Volvo is one of several makers who plan to focus on high-tech breakthroughs during the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, the Swedish maker switching on its new Active High Beam headlamp system.

To be offered on its S60, V60 and XC60 models, the Active High Beam Control technology will allow motorists to leave their brights on at all times, using a novel, high-tech approach to avoid blinding other drivers.

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So far, that may not sound so unique.  As far back as the 1960s, some luxury cars were equipped with primitive light sensors that were intended to detect the lights of oncoming vehicles and automatically dim the vehicle’s headlamps.  Similar technology has become relatively common today.

But instead of switching back to low beams, which means far less visibility on back roads or moonless nights, Volvo’s new system doesn’t dim its headlamps.  Instead, it automatically blocks out a portion of the high beam to prevent it from blinding other drivers.

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Chinese-Owned Volvo Won’t Abandon Sweden

Swedish Royals return the favor, Prince Carl Philip set to race for Volvo Polestar team.

by on Dec.05, 2012

Swedish Prince Carl Philip will race with the Volvo Polestar team next year. Photo courtesy Autoblog.com

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.

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“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.”

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Volvo Launches World’s First Plug-in Diesel Hybrid

High mileage, hefty price premium.

by on Nov.21, 2012

Volvo's new V60 Plug-in will pair two extremely efficient - but costly - technologies.

Volvo Car Corp., the Chinese-owned maker of prestige Euro cars, is starting up limited production of what it describes as the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid.

The new Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid can run for long periods on batteries or utilize the onboard diesel engine for power during extended driving.

The combined diesel and electric drive system produces about 285 horsepower and Volvo says it expects an average 124 miles per gallon equivalent fuel economy, a number calculated around using the battery propulsion for much of one’s daily driving.

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According to Volvo, the V60 Plug-in uses an 11.2 kWh lithium-ion battery that should yield 50 kilometers – or about 32 miles — per charge.  It does not appear there are near-term plans to bring the V60 Plug-in to the U.S., nor is it clear what the EPA range rating would be.  The government agency – which oversees fuel economy and related testing – typically comes up with a far less generous number than manufacturers quote for themselves.

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Ford, Volvo Announce New Recalls

“Carpet entrapment,” transmission problems spur action.

by on Jul.16, 2012

The first 10,000 of the new 2013 Ford Escape crossovers will be recalled.

Are automakers ordering more recalls this year? While it will likely be the end of 2012 before that question can be answered it certainly seems like more than a few days don’t go by without another headline about some safety problem or another leading to a new callback – or two, as is the case today.

The latest recalls come from Ford Motor Co., which is pulling the carpet out from underneath its new Escape crossover, so to speak, and from Volvo, whose S80 sedan appears to be slipping gears.

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The Ford recall is likely to make the most headlines as it impacts the all-new 2013 Escape, a hot-selling version of the makers long-running ute that this year migrated from a classic truck-like frame platform to an all-new, car-based crossover design.

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Volvo Hit With $1.5 Mil Fine for Delaying Recalls

by on Jul.06, 2012

Volvo has been fined for delaying a series of recalls.

Volvo’s shiny halo as an automotive safety advocates has been tarnished a bit by federal regulators who allege the Swedish maker illegally delayed action on seven separate recalls.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is fining Volvo $1.5 million for the delays which involved a total of 32,000 vehicles in 2010 and 2012.  Some of the recalls were relatively minor, such as one involving incorrect tire pressure labels, but others were more significant, including problems with vehicle stalling and defective airbags.

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Though it officially denies any wrongdoing, Volvo has agreed to pay the fines and stated that it has “taken steps to improve the review process and analysis of potential quality and safety issues with our vehicles.”

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Volvo Accelerating Plans for China

When is a Swedish carmaker not a Swedish carmaker?

by on Apr.30, 2012

The Volvo Concept You hints at the direction the maker plans to take, including its shift to small 4-cylinder and battery-based powertrains.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to call Volvo a Swedish car company.  These days, most of its top management – headed by CEO Stefan Jacoby, a former Volkswagen executive – is German and it is now owned by China’s big Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

Further confusing things, Volkswagen may soon have as much or more production capacity in China as it does in Europe, Jacoby confided in TheDetroitBureau.com during a conversation at the Beijing Motor Show.

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Work is already underway to erect Volvo’s first Chinese assembly plant and, he confirmed, everything is in place to add a second Chinese factory.  But now, he revealed, “We are considerating a powertrain plant in the greater Beijing region” that would likely meet most or all the engine and transmission needs for both those assembly lines.

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Geely Investing $11 Bil in Volvo

Plans to rapidly expand Swedish maker’s presence in China.

by on Apr.09, 2012

Geely Chairman Li Shufu and Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby.

Volvo is about to get a helping hand – a big one – from its Chinese parent, Geely Automobile Holdings, which plans to pump $11 billion into the Swedish maker.

According to a report in Wirtschafts Woche, the investment is intended to increase Volvo’s presence in the growing Chinese market.  Among other things, Geely wants to increase Volvo’s R&D, introduce new technologies and build a new engine plant.  Volvo is planning to migrate to a 4-cylinder-only powertrain strategy in the coming years.

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“We want to revive Volvo and give the brand its strength back,” Geely Chairman Li Shufu told the German weekly.

Exactly where the money will come from is a matter of debate.  While Chairman Li made it sound like Geely will be raising the capital, Volvo Per-Ake Froberg told the Reuters news service that the Swedish maker will have to come up with the capital.

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