GOTHENBURG - Volvo Car Corp. plans to sell 100,000 units of its new S80 sedan in 1999, 40 percent in Europe and 35 percent in the USA.
The front-wheel-drive replacement for the rear-drive S90 will go on sale in autumn.
The S80 is the first car built on Volvo's new large-car platform. At least two more models based on the platform are in development, including the S70/V70 successor.
Another is expected to be a multi-purpose vehicle designed to appeal to Volvo's traditional station wagon customers.
But in a break with tradition, Volvo says it will not offer a station wagon version of the S80.
'All our models used to be conceived as station wagons from the outset,' said Volvo Car President Tuve Johannesson. 'Until 1995 or 1996 we defended our position as a station wagon maker. But now our principal commitment is to having the highest safety standards and family values.'
Knut Simonsson, senior vice president for marketing, said Volvo aims to unify its global brand identity around the safety theme. He said that Volvo is now perceived in different ways around the world. Awareness of safety is strongest in the USA.
Simonsson said research shows that Volvo customers have become less interested in rationality and robustness. 'Looks and 'fun-to-drive' have became important,' he said.
But Johannesson said Volvo will not abandon its roots.
'We want to add good design and performance to our existing safety values,' he said. 'But we do not seek performance as such, or overstated prestige. That would be very dangerous to compromise on this brand identity.'
Volvo aims to sell 500,000 units in 2000, 150,000 in the USA and 250,000 in Europe. Last year it sold 387,000 cars.
Simonsson said the company is restructuring its dealer network in every market. 'We want them to upgrade from backyard dealerships to A1 locations,' he said. 'Our goal is to be the global No. 1 in customer satisfaction, not (just in) this or that country.'