Volvo's new five-door will be based on the C30.
Volvo's new five-door will be based on the C30. Drive

Volvo eyes small car domination

VOLVO has confirmed it will build a rival for the Volkswagen Golf as it targets bigger global sales under its new Chinese owner.

The five-door hatchback is set to be shown in concept form at next year’s Frankfurt motor show before going on sale in 2012.

Volvo’s small-car offerings currently include the S40 sedan and C30 coupe/hatch, though the Swedish car maker hasn’t built a five-door hatchback since the 440 of the late ’90s.

Volvo Australia boss Alan Desselss, however, has told Drive that the Swedish car maker will build a successor as it aims to double sales to 800,000 by 2020.

“Yes, there will be a five-door [version of the C30],” said Desselss at the Tasmanian launch of Volvo’s S60 sedan.

“That [premium small-car] segment is growing,” he says. “We’ve seen the [BMW] 1-Series, Audi has the new A1 ... we’ve seen that market is expanding, especially in Europe. I don’t think [that demand] is as prolific in Australia yet, but I think it will come.

“The trend is moving towards smaller cars and then manufacturers [such as Volvo] will be challenged to give an S60 [mid-size luxury car] type of feel but in a smaller version. People don’t want to compromise just because they’re going smaller.”

The C in C30 stands for coupe, so it’s not clear whether the new Golf rival would be called H30 – with the H as an abbreviation for hatch.

Desselss says the new hatch will be as stylishly designed as the C30 but significantly more practical than the three-door that has been criticised for its limited rear legroom and small boot.

He admits the company – acquired by Geely Automotive last August after 11 years of Ford ownership – is also planning an even smaller SUV to sit below the XC60 mid-size soft-roader. It would be expected to start from below $40,000 in Australia.

“I think every manufacturer is looking at [the compact SUV segment],” he says. “You’d be crazy if you weren’t.

“The nomenclature [for the model] is not yet defined. There is a debate: should it be [XC]30 or [XC]40.”

Volvo is in the process of harmonising its future model names, to iron out inconsistencies such as its smallest wagon that’s called the V50 despite being a twin with the S40 sedan. Desselss says all of the company’s small models are likely to adopt either the 30 or 40 suffixes.

It’s understood the long-awaited replacement for the XC90 large SUV has been pushed back as the Golf rival and XC30/40 take priority.

The XC90 is already eight years old but the second-generation model is not likely to go on sale until 2013.

Volvo has also only just replaced the 10-year-old S60 and Desselss admits the company is looking to improve the speed of its model updates.

“One of the encouraging things is that Stefan Jacoby has said we will bring to market more attractive cars at a much quicker rate,” he says. “You will find that with our product cycles will become far more aggressive.

“That’s not a sleight on Ford ownership. However, I think Volvo now has the opportunity to be more aggressive and more attuned to the market.”

Desselss admits the popularity of Volvo SUVs is placing pressure on the big wagon the company was once renowned for. He says the large V70 wagon, the slowest-selling Volvo locally with just 54 units to November, is “a wait and see” situation.

Volvo global boss Stefan Jacoby is currently reviewing the company’s product plan, though he has already had a public disagreement with the Chinese bosses than installed him as CEO four months ago.

Geely president Li Schufu has stated he would like Volvo to build a limousine rival for the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, though Jacoby believes the company should stop aiming for higher-end rivals.

“Let’s ditch this talk about premium,” Jacoby told European media. “It sounds like a pricing strategy and it’s got an expensive ring to it. We need to focus on elegant Scandinavian simplicity, our own unique identity, and not copy our competitors.”

Volvo will sell about 380,000 vehicles globally this year, with the Australian market accounting for roughly 5000 units.

Volvo Australia is matching the ambitiousness of its parent company, forecasting a record 7000 sales for 2011.

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