Next Volvo XC90 will bow in 2014; new hybrids in the works
A suite of new 4-cylinder engines and new chassis platforms will transform the Swedish automaker after 2014.
Volvo's Chinese parent company, Geely, is investing $11 billion in new platforms and a new series of 4-cylinder engines destined to replace most of Volvo's current 5-cylinder lineup. (We've already tried one of its latest turbodiesel 4-cylinder engines in Sweden and can say it's superb.) The plans also call for increasing production at Volvo's engine and assembly plants in Sweden.
About half of the money will go to upgrade Volvo facilities and technology in Sweden through 2015. Volvo did not specify what the other half would cover, but it's likely Volvo will open its first-ever Chinese plant, run jointly with Geely, in that same time.
As with many automakers, the concept of "platform sharing" -- spreading a single chassis that can be modified to fit several models of varying sizes, lengths and powertrains -- will boost profits. The company said its future car models will share about 40 percent of the same parts to "benefit from economies of scale."
The XC90 is particularly overdue for a revamp. The big SUV, which was the first production vehicle with a boron steel roof for enhanced rollover protection, is still on its first-generation platform from 2003.
Even more important, however, is Volvo's insistence that its new technology will be separate from Ford, its owner before Geely purchased Volvo for $1.5 billion in 2010. For example, the S80 shares its chassis with the Lincoln MKS and Ford Taurus, while the Volvo C70 is based on a Ford Focus chassis that was co-developed with Mazda, another former Ford partner. Some of its engines were also shared with Land Rover, and even some of its electronics and switches can still be found in new Aston Martins, yet another old branch of Ford. The new chassis platform "makes us technologically independent, without any link whatsoever to our previous owner," the company said in a statement.
Volvo also hinted that it would be building more hybrid powertrains coupled to its upcoming 4-cylinder engines. Currently, the diesel-powered V60 Plug-in Hybrid is already sold out in Europe at a price of $80,000 each.
Volvo needs new product, especially to boost U.S. sales. In the past year, it has dropped the S40 sedan, the V50 and V70 wagons and will also cancel the C30 hatchback for all markets.
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