Volvo Has Caught The Cross Country Bug. XC S60 and XC V60?

Volvo is a company in transition. Under new ownership after being sold by Ford, Volvo has had difficulty in distancing itself from it’s past. Much of the designs and components of their older models such as the S60 and discontinued S40 were based off of Ford, and for the S60, there are major changes underway to get rid of the old blueprint and start fresh in 2015. Well they’ve certainly done that by unveiling their new XC version of the S60. With a height adjustment of 2.5 inches, Volvo is moving away from their traditional sedan and have suddenly come up with a Subaru-like, height-adjusted, tough terrain beating car and station wagon.

The addition to the XC family has already caused confusion with the media as there is an XC V60 and a XC60 now, but the difference being one is a station wagon and the other a crossover. What are Volvo’s future plans, what segment are they trying to enter, and who exactly are they competing against with their new XC lineup? These questions seem to go unanswered, but one could speculate that they’re trying to be the more luxurious Subaru by offering AWD across their product line, or their bringing Subaru-like engineering to the luxury car market, a segment that hasn’t been capitalized as of yet. But is there a demand for it?

Volvos primarily sell better in the states with winter climates as their AWD systems are a luxury during the late fall and winter months during the year. It’s very possible that they’re trying to target a specific market that either likes off-road capabilities or prefers something other than Subaru without sacrificing the AWD and year round durability.

However, the redesigned Volvo XC90 might contradict that theory as Volvo unveiled the R-design trim that will surely take on the BMW X5 and Audi Q5. It appears the Swedish automaker is trying to take on multiple segments at once, while also innovating along the way. They have a triple turbocharged engine in the works that could revolutionize the car industry while also continuing to perfect their safety features on their cars.

It will be interesting to see the reception the XC S60 gets when it enters Volvo dealerships early this year. Personally, I see the XC V60 doing better as Subaru has lived off the AWD station wagons for years, and it’s possible Volvo can experience that same success. Great things are happening up in Sweden these days, and let’s hope we continue to see these changes as Volvos have become very luxury-based cars over the past 5 years or so.

Lower Gas Prices Are Still Not Enough For Consumers To Buy Big SUV’s

Cadillac Escalade SUV
Bruno Rs / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The national average for gas is below $3.00 a gallon which has affected different markets in the automotive segment of the economy. Electric and hybrid cars have seen lower sales figures since the recent nose-dive oil has taken the past few months. However, with these lower gas prices, sales figures for large SUV’s still hasn’t improved, and just as the sports car market, the bigger SUV market may never recover.

Ian Robertson, a Sales Chief for BMW said recently that the age of the sports car is coming to a close and that we’ll probably never see that market recover. While he only mentioned two-door coupes, it appears that the recession has also put another segment of the auto industry on life support. Larger SUV’s such as the Cadillac Escalade and the Chevrolet Tahoe are only maintaining a 7% share of the market, which that number has flatlined since 2009. Not even lower gas prices are helping this segment. Since the recession and the days of $3.00 a gallon, car companies have had to adapt to a new economy, one in which the consumer is very careful about spending and expenses.

The crossover SUV’s have taken a bite out of the traditional SUV’s market share which could explain why we’re not seeing improving sales figures. Crossovers and small SUV’s such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, BMW X1 and X3, Mazda CX-5, Audi Q3 and Q5, Ford Escape, Volvo XC60, and Honda CR-V, are all eating away at the sales figures of their bigger siblings. Car companies aren’t just stopping there, they’re continuing to grow the crossover segment as Mazda already has a CX-3 in the works, and seeing the competitiveness of the Germans, who knows what they’ll think of next.

Consumers have also adapted to the new economy that we’ve lived in for the past seven years. They’re learning that they don’t need a huge SUV to get around and that even with a smaller vehicle, they can still carry their groceries, drive their kids to school, and while doing that, saving money at the pump. Smaller SUV’s and crossovers have become the new practical. While Americans won’t admit it, they’ve become more like Europeans since the recession, as Europe has been living with high gas prices way before the economy had it’s downturn.

We live in a new world. The economy may or may not have recovered, or some sectors have while others are still lagging behind. But one thing is for sure, the auto market will not change the direction it’s heading in unless there is a major swing in the markets and on Main Street. In 5-10 years, we may look back on the recession as the killer of the big SUV and sports car markets as we once knew them.