DIANA T. KURYLKO

For ailing Volvo, Frankfurt concept won't ease doubts

Automotive News Europe | September 6, 2013 20:50 CET

Diana T. Kurylko covers various U.S. import brands for Automotive News.
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The Volvo brand -- starving for new product -- is tanking in the United States and under siege from German rivals in Europe.

Company officials are now trying to stir up interest and confidence in the troubled brand -- it swung to a loss in the first half on weaker global sales and price cuts -- with the Concept Coupe debuting at the Frankfurt auto show.

The Swedish brand calls the concept "the expressive interpretation of a new brand direction where design has an elevated strategic importance to deliver more emotion into the Volvo brand."

It's all well and good but the first of several redesigned vehicles on the drawing board -- the XC90 crossover -- won't hit the U.S. market until early 2015. The new V60 wagon, which Volvo officials initially withheld from the U.S. market, comes in January. But volume is targeted at about 300 units a month.

Volvo sells only four core models in the U.S. market. Its sales the first eight months of the year have dropped 6 percent to 44,005 vehicles compared with the same period last year in an overall U.S. market that has expanded 10 percent in the period.

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson complained in media reports this week about slumping U.S. sales and vowed to fix the problem.

Globally, Volvo sales skidded 6 percent to 209,118 units in the first half.

Samuelsson has been CEO for about a year. But he was also on Volvo's board for two years before replacing Stefan Jacoby when directors routinely reviewed future product plans.

Volvo has axed five vehicles in the past three years and has not replaced them. The S40 compact sedan and the V50 station wagon were discontinued two years ago. The U.S. market also lost the V70 station wagon because of slow sales in 2011.

The slow-selling C30 compact hatchback was axed at the end of last year. The C70 convertible went out of production earlier this year.

And there's no word on when or if these vehicles will be replaced.

So that brings us to the Frankfurt auto show. Volvo says design cues from the coupe will appear on the XC90 -- a bit of a stretch. It's mum on when an upscale coupe will be produced, or a larger sedan, or a compact car -- and the list continues.

Meanwhile, German rivals, Cadillac and Asian competiveness

Volvo needs to show more than a flashy concept to demonstrate it has a firm and robust pipeline packed with new product.

Otherwise, it seems like a floundering brand that's getting squeezed by a flood of cars and crossovers from German and Asian rivals, even Cadillac -- just three years after its purchase by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.

Design cues from the Volvo Concept Coupe will appear on the next XC90.

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