Insisting that he did not intend to use ‘spaciousness’ instead, Iain Robertson states that Volvo’s claims of market leadership on the electrification front are improperly promoted, when ALL carmakers have no choice in the matter and Volvo is just following.
If there is one aspect of product marketing that truly gets my dander up, it is manufacturing proofless and unnecessary claims about the magnificence of its company’s products, at whichever level. Something ‘funny’ has happened within formerly Scandi-conservative Volvo, even within the past couple of years, that to my fetid mind is enough to destroy any credibility earned by the brand over the past three decades at least.
Prior to Ford ownership in 1999, as part of a $6bn exercise that also saw the US marque acquiring Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover, Volvo was a troubled little Swedish brand that had captured the hearts of upwardly mobile middle-Americans and enjoyed an up-market image in its second most important world territory of the UK. It needed a major partner desperately, in order to build its range and to benefit from economies of scale. Ford provided the impetus, prior to selling it to the Chinese Geely Corporation for $1.8bn just over a decade later.
With access to Ford of Europe’s excellent Focus platform, an entirely new line-up of compact S40 saloon, V50 estate and even C30 compact 3-door and 2-door convertible models emerged. They were truly first-rate. However, even the medium sector S60 grew in relevance, with S80 becoming an Audi A6 rival and the first XC90 introducing high-class off-roading to the burgeoning SUV segment. While Ford seemingly could not understand Land Rover, or Jaguar, let alone Aston Martin, while its relationship with Mazda Cars also looked shaky at best, it did good things with Volvo, despite rumours of starving it of investment funds.
Since late-2010, under Geely stewardship, Volvo was keen to highlight that its Swedishness was not under threat. Controlled by a staunch, friendly and efficient team in Gothenburg, the outward appearance was very much ‘business as usual’, with the Chinese State allowing virtually unwarranted latitude, supported by judicious funding to build Volvo’s standing on a world stage. However, despite outward appearances, Volvo has been struggling in its relationship with Geely, even though it has repaid the initial Chinese investment ten times over at least. The situation hit crisis stage last summer, when it became clear that China wanted to rename Volvo as Volvo-Geely.
China’s relentless acquisition of several additional Swedish brands, some of which are from the security and defence sectors, has worried both the EU and Sweden’s government. Despite the fact that Geely Chairman, Li Shufu, had promised a ‘blank cheque’ and factored in a $10bn additional investment only a few years ago does appear to have been overtaken by a Chinese desire to relocate the Swedish assets to its homeland and to place the company controversially on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
It is already obvious that Chinese-based senior management are making decisions over those of Gothenburg. It is stated that Geely is not owned by the People’s Republic but, then, it has been proven that China has used all manner of subterfuge to undermine western businesses, commerce and society. If it succeeds in its uber-management of Volvo, the 19,000 local jobs will be severely jeopardised and I can imagine that those Swedes living in China will resign and depart in short order. Polestar is already based there. Dealing with China means becoming inveigled by its politics.
As to the new Volvo C40 Recharge, while the suffix is largely unnecessary, because we all recognise that it is a BEV and not fossil-fuelled, Volvo describes it as a lower and sleeker model. While the dimensions may indicate a marginal top-chop and the rear hatch is certainly more fastback than the XC40, the car’s relationship with the XC40 Recharge is significant.
Naturally, there are some ‘greener’ advancements in that the trim, despite a leather-look, is actually hide-free. Its headlamps also feature pixel technology for the first time, which is said to infer less glare and provide greater flexibility, when changing from dipped to full beam. As with the XC40 Recharge, the C40 is equipped with one of the most proficient infotainment systems currently available. It has been developed jointly with Google, although it is based on the Android operating system. Among its talents, it provides end-users with Google apps and services built-into the system and includes Google Maps, Google Assistant and the Google Play Store among an array of other services.
The provision of virtually unlimited data is suggested to provide superior connectivity, regardless of location and the C40 also receives software updates over the airwaves. In essence, it means that the car can continue to improve its service provision over time, even after it has left the factory.
Its electric power unit consists of twin electric motors, one on the front and one on the rear axles, powered by a 78kWh battery that can be fast charged to 80% of its capacity in what is fast becoming an industry standard of around 40 minutes. It is said to offer an anticipated fully charged range of around 261mls, yet, despite assurances that this might even improve over time, with the over-the-air software upgrades, most early adopters can expect to get around 200mls range.
Intriguingly, the fully electric C40 Recharge can be bought online only. In line with the company’s ambition to reduce complexity in its model offering and to focus on attractive pre-selected variants, Volvo Cars has simplified the consumer offering of the C40 drastically. The car will be supplied with a convenient care package that includes items such as servicing, warranty, roadside assistance, as well as insurance and a selection of home charging options.
Conclusion: Volvo’s C40 Recharge goes into production this autumn and will be built alongside the XC40 Recharge at the Volvo Cars manufacturing plant in Ghent, Belgium. As far as prices are concerned, you can expect near parity with the £50-£55,000 XC40 BEV, with a no-deposit rental programme starting at around £590/month. Deliveries commence in early-2022.