Few automotive manufacturers have a more clear-cut image than Volvo. Say, “safety,” and the brand immediately comes to mind. But in an era when most automakers promise safe products, can Volvo fight back by broadening its own brand image?
That’s what the maker is hoping to do with products like the 2011 S60, a surprisingly stylish and sporty new sedan that also will be the last model Volvo fully develops under its former owner, Ford Motor Co. Going forward, Volvo will be the Western face of new owner Zhejiang Geely, the ambitious Chinese holding company that hopes to become one of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers.
“This business is too competitive. You can’t be good at just one thing,” concedes Volvo Cars North America CEO Doug Speck. “We own safety,” he contends, “but in addition to that we’ll add cool design and fun-to-drive.”
It will take a number of years for Volvo to revise its image, Speck acknowledges, and the S60 will be the first step in that process. The sedan targets the largest segment in the luxury car market – and its absence from the maker’s line-up, over the last year, was a major reason why Volvo sales slid 12% for the calendar-year-to-date, even as the rest of the industry began a slow recovery, Speck argues.