Volvo Giving Wagons Another Go

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Volvo and wagons used to be synonymous.

They may soon be again.

Introduced at the Detroit auto show last week, the 2018 Volvo V90 wagon harkens back to Volvo’s roots as a car company that specialized in … wagons.

“Volvo is wagons,” said Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Car USA. “And theoretically, wagons should start to increase in popularity if you look at the demographics.”

The sporty design is meant to compete with the Mercedes-Benz E-class wagon and other high-end wagons, such as those made by Audi. The V90 will be equipped with Volvo’s semiautonomous Pilot Assist technology and Apple CarPlay.

But it will be fighting an uphill battle as it enters a U.S. industry dominated by SUVs and crossovers, said Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific.

“It doesn’t matter what flavor they offer it in, wagons are a really tough sale,” Sullivan said.

Though a market exists for wagons, it is “smaller than a sliver,” he said. Such customers are typically luxury buyers who are looking for greater size and performance without opting for a “mom-mobile” SUV or crossover.

“We think the wagon is high-potential in the U.S., but it will not kick off immediately,”Kerssemakers said.

In September, Kent Falck, director of the V90, told the trade publication Automotive News that he expects 40,000 annual global sales. Global sales of the V60 wagon and the V60 Cross Country for 2016 were 42,236 and 18,401. He added that the automaker is anticipating demand for the V90 and recently introduced S90 sedan to put some strain on supply.

“It is a very positive problem to have,” Falck said.

Volvo has experienced steady growth in the U.S. since it was acquired by Chinese company Geely in 2010. Sullivan said there won’t be much risk to the automaker if the V90 fails to gain traction in the U.S. given the success of the XC90 SUV and the steady rate of product introductions.

“This is a great time to be at Volvo,” he said.

The U.S. introduction of the V90 also marks an expansion of Volvo’s custom-order model, which launched in Europe and began with lower-volume models. The V90 will not be available straight from dealer inventory, but must be ordered online or through a retailer for pickup at dealerships.

Kerssemakers stressed that Volvo is not moving toward a direct-sale model, but hopes to relieve inventory backup with the new program.

Sullivan said the custom-order model will benefit retailers and isn’t likely to put off the automaker’s luxury customers.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. When wagons had substantial towing capacity and were rear wheel drive, they made sense. Having driven an SUV, I like the extra ground clearance and ride height. In addition, some, not all, have extra carrying capacity that wagons don’t have. On the other hand, I have an open mind. I like wagons as well. Automakers don’t know how to market them. I beleive they could be sold based on efficiency. No one needs the outsized SUV and in high fuel priced environments, a wagon makes better sense. I have the idea that higher fuel prices are on the medium term horizon of say 2 years.

    • The advantages of SUVs are also its disadvantages.

      Extra ground clearance and ride height mean higher centers of gravity and reduced roll resistance. Statistically how many SUV owners actually need them? How many buy them for the sake of image?

      When I lived in LA, I saw a lot of Land Rovers, Hummers, Mercedes G-Classes on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I doubt any of the owners ever drove over so much as a cattle guard.

      Car buyers who aren’t serious about off-roading would be better off admitting that a station wagon based on a sedan chassis makes more sense for them. Lower CG, safer cornering on city streets and freeways ramps.

  2. More wagons would probably sell, if they weren’t all luxury or premium models. Most families can’t afford the few available, since most are 35K+.

  3. I’m one of the minority who think station wagons are pretty nice. My first car was a wagon. Easy to load up just about anything in the back with the seats folded down. At the time it was more of a joke than anything, so not as much of a chick repellent as you might think, especially that time I put an air mattress in the back and went camping in the rain…

    • Wagons make a lot of sense.

      Basically, the volume of space above the trunk lid in a four door sedan is “wasted”. Wagons capture that space and put in back inside the car instead of outside. And why not?

      Wagons also make whatever space is enclosed within the skin more usable and efficient. They consolidate what was three different volumes into one. The trunk, the back seat, and the space above the trunk lid in a sedan are consolidated into one.

      As far as “image” is concerned, it depends. Wagons used to be the go to solution for soccer moms before there was a such a thing. But wagon also used to known in Britain as “shooting breaks”, intended for hunting.

    • Wagons make a lot of sense.

      Basically, the volume of space above the trunk lid in a four door sedan is “wasted”. Wagons capture that space and put in back inside the car instead of outside. And why not?

      Wagons also make whatever space is enclosed within the skin more usable and efficient. They consolidate what was three different volumes into one. The trunk, the back seat, and the space above the trunk lid in a sedan are consolidated into one.

      As far as “image” is concerned, it depends. Wagons used to be the go to solution for soccer moms before there was a such a thing. But wagon also used to known in Britain as “shooting brakes”, intended for hunting.

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