Archive for Volvo

New Volvos

Posted in Car conception, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , on 30/08/2013 by Alexander

Volvos of the 2000’s had quite long production runs, such as the S60 (2000-2009), the second-generation S40 (2004-2012) and the XC90 (2002-). Even though they had minor facelifts during their lifetime, they were essentially the same car, and ageing models aren’t treated very kindly in today’s market. This was mostly due to Volvo’s tumultuous tenure under Ford’s ownership, who were in trouble themselves and would keep all the good bits for Fords rather than the group’s premium brand.

However, those days are gone and it’s Chinese money keeping the Swedish boat afloat. The Volvo V40 was a promising start to the post-Ford era, a very stylish, unique and contemporary car that has, to my knowledge, garnered praise from various corners of the motor-journalistic world.

129825_4_13Volvo’s new cars look promising. First there’s the good-looking Concept Coupe that’s designed to show off the brand’s Scaleable Product Architecture (SPA) platform that will underpin all future Volvos, from the smallest to the largest cars. The car definitely reminds me of the Audi A5, which in one aspect is positive, because the A5 is very handsome, but bad in another way because no-one wants a chinese rip-off. I love coupes and I hope Volvo builds it, because their current “coupe”, the Pininfarina-penned C70 (it isn’t really a coupe, it’s a convertible), is as ugly as sin.

And other notable Volvo news is the upcoming all-new XC90. I normally don’t go for SUV’s at all, but this summer I was lucky enough to ride around in a V8 XC90, and one thing that I loved was how the centre back seat had an in-built booster seat that could move all the way forward, so my daughter had a proper view out the front. I’d buy the car just for that.

Volvo C30 – 2006-2012

Posted in Desirable machines, News, Rust in peace with tags , , , on 17/10/2012 by Alexander

Everyone loves to root for the underdog, except when it comes to cars. Ask anyone in the street and they’ll prefer a hugely popular 3-series or C-Class over a less successful, more discrete yet equally competent and reliable non-German alternative. I won’t go into why this is so (it’s badge snobbery, plain and simple), but if it were my money, I’d always, always pick the plucky, unsung outsider over the Teutonic option mass opinion always favours. 5-series, E-Class or A6? Give me a Citroen C6 any day. VW CC or A5 Sportback? Volvo S60 for me, please. A3 or Scirocco? Volvo C30, hands-down.

And it would seem the funky compact Scandinavian has reached the end of the line, as production will be ceasing in December. I’ve always loved the exterior styling, the glass tailgate, the gorgeous minimalist Swedish interior and the range of engines, which ranged from frugal (1.6 litre diesel) to fricking-well fast (the T5!).

But alas, the C30’s production run had issues that hampered its sales performance. First, it was terribly overpriced in its market segment, where it had to contend with the very popular Audi A3 and later, the VW Scirocco. Even though its most sold version, the 1.6 diesel, had a more powerful yet smaller engine than the A3’s 1.9Tdi, the Volvo brand image and a high price drove its main potential customers, i.e., badge conscious young rich brats, into the arms of the four-ringed Golf, I’m sorry, A3. The post-2010 facelifted C30 DRIVe was drastically cheaper than its previous equivalent, but it showed that the C30 could’ve and should’ve been cheaper from the start. Another big factor in the C30’s lack of success was the profound uncertainty that surrounded Volvo’s future when Ford said it wanted to sell off the Swedish brand, and its subsequent sale to Chinese company Geely. It’s hard to sell a certain car when its manufacturer’s viability is in question, as well as being sold to then-unknown foreign owners from a country without much of a reputation for car-manufacturing. Consequently, big chunk of the C30’s production run was during this time of crisis.

I’m very sad to see the C30 go, since it was a car I really wanted to buy back in 2006 when it came out, and if the hiatus between it and the Volvo 480 is indication, will probably mark the last time Volvo will be competing in this segment of the market for a long, long time.

The demise of the European car market

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16/10/2012 by Alexander

Europe’s worsening economic situation is reflected by many things: unemployment, social unrest, tight national budgets and so on. Because this is a car blog, what matters here are new car sales, and this year they’ve been appallingly low. All the big European car manufacturers are posting record dips in sales, except for one: BMW, who have seen a 10% increase in cars coming out of their showrooms.

Renault have sold a staggering 29% less, Fiat are 19% down, Volvo slumped 17%, General Motors and Ford lost around 15%, and curiously, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, a group in the news lately for their poor financial performance and their dubious alliance with GM, lost just over 8%, practically the same as that of the VAG group of brands owned by Volkswagen. Daimler-Benz, of which Mercedes is a part of, saw nearly a 7% loss, most of which can be attributed to the slump of Smart.

In the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association report, the reader can note an odd tendency: there’s a tendency for European-based manufacturers of more affordable cars such as superminis and family hatchbacks to have registered a heavy loss (GM and Ford may be American, but their European models are conceived and built here). On the other hand, Audi was up 1.4%, Jaguar Land Rover rose a staggering 13.2%, and as mentioned, BMW got an extra 10.5%. Really shows who’s suffering and who’s benefiting from the current recession!

In the long term, I’m worried this could mean Europe’s non-German car-makers disappearing altogether. It doesn’t seem to matter how well traditionally widespread brands like Fiat and Renault make their cars, they just can’t compete with the badge-conscious, overpriced German offerings. If these sorts of brands go under, anyone who wants a frugal small car will either have to buy a bland Japanese vehicle or a Volkswagen in one of its guises (Seat, Skoda, etc.). Or we could see a BMW-owned Citroen for example, since the only real small car the Bavarians make is the Mini and all of its bastard sprogs.

Either way, dark days are ahead for everyone on the Old Continent.

Volvo and PSA looking for partners

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , on 25/01/2012 by Alexander

Volvo is looking for a partner to develop small cars. PSA Peugeot/Citroen are open to an alliance with another car maker.

Can anyone guess what I’m hinting at here?

Many carmakers aren’t interested in having dealings with Volvo, because it’s owned by the Chinese. Citroen however, is betting heavily on the Chinese market, with models developed exclusively for China. Volvo would benefit from Peugeot and Citroen’s expertise and platforms in the small car arena (even though the French brands’ legendary cars are large things like the 504, the CX and the DS, what they’re really good at is selling 206’s and Saxos and such), while the French would be able to use Volvo’s higher-end platforms and delve into more premium segments. Well, I’m no market analyst or such, but hey, this is what blogs are for, to spout out prattle to anyone who reads it, even if it makes no sense to the experts.

Diesel+LPG

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , on 17/01/2012 by Alexander

I love alternative fuels. I’m on my third LPG car, which is the perhaps the most widespread and cheapest alternative fuel in Europe, and I thank my stars every day for having converted my Volvo to run on it. Currently, fuel prices are so staggeringly high that I’d have to consider staying at home a lot more than I do. When I first started driving my first LPG-burning Citroen, diesel was around €0,88, while LPG was around €0.5. Money-wise, it was cheaper to run a diesel, since it got mileage that was good enough to offset the price difference between the two types of fuel. However, the considerable difference in price when buying the cars to start with made LPG the far more sensible choice, since the cost of buying a petrol car and pay for the conversion was far, far less than buying an equivalent diesel. For example, my S60 (2.3-litre five cylinder turbo, with 130,000km/80,000 miles on the odometer) cost €11,000 plus nearly €2,000 to get it converted, while an equivalent D5 version (2.4-litre five cylinder turbo, same mileage), would set me back €15,500+. And I’d have to drive a lot to compensate for those extra €2,500 price difference. In fact, I’d have to have driven round the clock as soon as I got it because not long after, diesel prices rose so steeply that since then diesel is no longer the less expensive way to get around. Especially in 2012.

Let’s crunch some quick numbers to you can get the idea. Diesel now costs around €1.49 a litre. LPG costs €0.75 (I’m rounding the numbers in favour of diesel, to drive the point home). Now, I get around 8.8l/100km (32.1mpg) on an average journey with a car full of people, luggage and air-conditioning. An equivalent diesel will do around 5l/100km (56.5mpg). LPG saves €0.90 per 100km, and though that might not sound like much, over the lifetime of a car that’s a lot of lolly.

Anyway, this might not hold true tomorrow since LPG prices are set to go up in the near future, but either way, I stand by my logic. However, if you already own a diesel, you might be interested in something I found out yesterday (though it’s been around for yonks): dual-fuel LPG/diesel cars. In a nutshell, cars that inject 66% diesel and 34% LPG into the cylinder. From what I’ve read, the result is smoother running, more power and torque, and significant fuel economy (20-30%). The bottom line is a 5l/100km car now drinks some 2.5l of diesel plus a litre or so of LPG. That’s half the amount of normal fuel plus some half price fuel. Personally, I think it sounds great and I’d jump at the chance, if I had a diesel, except for one small snag. The cost of fitting an LPG kit to a diesel can be around €2000, and offsetting that value can take a jolly long time. Even if you save €1.50 per 100km, you’d have to do around 130,000km (80,000 mile)s to compensate the investment, and considering you’ll probably be converting a used car that’s clocked 150,000km (as most converted cars – no-one wants to tinker with a relatively new car), it might not even last that long. Compare that to LPG cars, where even an expensive conversion like mine paid off after 30,000km.

Either way, it’s an interesting alternative, and might be worth it given the right set of circumstances.

Volvo P1800 turns 50 and 2.9 million at the same time

Posted in Desirable machines with tags , , , , on 17/06/2011 by Alexander

The iconic Volvo P1800 turns 50 years old, perhaps best known for “starring” alongside Roger Moore in the classic series The Saint. One story goes that the producers of the series negotiated using a British-brand Jag E-type for the show, but when Jag told them to sod off, Moore allowed for the use of his own Volvo P1800. The other perhaps more believable version is that following the 1961 launch of both the E-type and the P1800, Jaguar turned down the loan of E-types, and Volvo was approached and jumped at the chance (and Moore liked the car so much he bought one). Either way, Volvo’s ailing P1800 sales in the UK suddenly took a turn for the better, and the rest is history.

An interesting story published on Autoblog tells of Irv Gordon, a proud American P1800 owner who has racked up an incredible and record-breaking 2.9 million miles (nearly 4.7 million kilometres – that’s equivalent to nearly 16 trips to the Moon). He broke the record for distance travelled in a non-commercial car 1.2 million kilometres ago, and doesn’t intend to stop. Damn, I wish I had the time and money to rack up insane amounts of mileage in my Volvo.

Volvo goes to Zhong Guo

Posted in News with tags , on 30/03/2010 by Alexander

So Volvo’s been bought by Geely, the Chinese automaker. It mightl be just like Ford all over again, with the Chinese lifting Volvo’s good designs for themselves, and Volvo project staff being deviated from their original aims to work on Geely projects. Or this might be a cash injection for Volvo, and Geely will be content in letting Volvo make cars the way they want to as long as they get to fiddle with the designs for the Chinese market. Who knows?