Volvo Polishes Green Image In Europe
… But Continues To Let North America Soldier On With Inefficient Lineup
By Kevin Miller
Volvo announced today they will be introducing efficient 1.6D DRIVe versions of their C30, S40, and V50 models next month in Paris. The C30 is rated 4.4 liters/100 km (53.3 MPG), while the S40 and V50 are rated 4.5 liters/100 km (52.1 MPG). The corresponding CO2 figures of 115 and 118 g/km mean that the C30 and V50 have best-in-class CO2 emissions in their segments.
The DRIVe models are based on the Volvo C30 Efficiency concept car that was shown at the Frankfurt motor show in October 2007. The measures adopted to reduce CO2 emissions that were presented then will be in production before the end of the year in the C30, S40 and the V50. The 1.6 liter diesel powerplant complements aerodynamic changes to the vehicles, tires with lower rolling resistance, gearboxes with higher ratios, and use of different lubricants to reduce internal friction and losses. The price supplement for the DRIVe package is estimated at between 150 and 450 euros depending on model and market. The DRIVe cars can be specified with most of the options and accessories that Volvo offers, apart from those that affect the cars’ aerodynamic properties.
Like the rest of Volvo’s diesel models, the DRIVe models are equipped with a maintenance-free particle filter that traps about 95 percent of all soot particles. These ultra-efficient new Volvos will enable their drivers to take advantage of various financial incentives in the form of subsidies in the 13 European markets that have implemented a CO2-based vehicle taxation system, for instance with a “green grant” that is paid to the owner, lower road tax, registration tax exemption or other similar forms of financial encouragement.
Volvo’s press release quotes Volvo Cars President and CEO Fredrik Arp as stating “We will offer our diesel-powered DRIVe cars throughout Europe, even in countries that today do not offer any form of financial incentive. We are doing this to give everyone the opportunity to choose a pro-environmental alternative from Volvo. For us it is not simply a question of short-term sales – it also clearly shows how strongly Volvo prioritizes environmental properties throughout the product range, both today and for the future.” Apart from these three diesel-powered DRIVe cars, Volvo also offers a comprehensive Flexifuel range encompassing five car models and three bioethanol engines. All told, this means that Volvo Cars today offers the [European] market’s widest range of premium cars with a low environmental imprint.
Evidently, Volvo is really only concerned about the environment in Europe. Here in the US, where Volvo sells only gasoline-powered vehicles, the base C30, S40, and V50 have an EPA rating of 20/28 MPG, and Volvo’s larger models get worse fuel economy from there. In today’s market with high fuel prices, Volvo’s US dealers are having a tough time making sales, because their aging model portfolio doesn’t have fuel economy that competes with similarly-sized vehicles from other manufacturers.
Seeing Volvo commit to selling even more efficient vehicles in Europe, while not doing the same for the North American market, hurts Volvo’s North American dealers and turns off potential customers. Like most automakers with lineups of somewhat-expensive-and-not-very-efficient cars, Volvo’s sales are down this year. Volvo Cars of North America reported sales of 4,669 units in the United States for August, representing a 48 percent decrease compared to the same period last year. For the month in Canada, Volvo sales were off 33 percent, with 453 units sold, while Volvo sales in Mexico were off 35 percent, selling 144 units. Overall in North America (United States, Canada and Mexico), Volvo sold 62,153 units through the end of August, which is 23.5 percent off compared to the same period for 2007.
While it is too soon to tell whether efficient diesel vehicles are going to be embraced by North American buyers, Volvo would do well to offer DRIVe models here, even if they were sold in very limited quantities. Having those efficient models available would greatly increase showroom traffic, and it is hard to imagine that Volvo would have difficulty selling the vehicles in today’s green-vehicle marketplace. Any increase in showroom traffic and sales would surely be welcomed by Volvo’s North American dealers.
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