We imagine that Volvo must have been struggling to sell cars around the world ever since it was unloaded by former parent company Ford to Geely in August 2010. Yes, it is still the same admirable automotive firm based in Gothenburg, Sweden, and which continues to innovate in the field of car safety. But let\'s face it: Moving from an American owner to a Chinese one must have had some sort of impact on the company--if not on its corporate culture, then at least on the market\'s perception of it.
We don\'t have the global sales figures, but we can perform some deduction using available Philippine data. In our market, Volvo sold a total of 263 units in 2009. The local distributor didn\'t submit a report for 2010, the same year Volvo was purchased by Geely. The tally went down to 245 in 2011, and dipped even further to 212 in 2012. Those are significant drops, given the brand\'s low volume here. Something is obviously amiss.
Now, we won\'t pretend to understand the real reasons behind the aforementioned sales slump, but it\'s not silly to wager that the problem could lie in the fact that Volvo had been steadily retrogressing in recent years to its former reputation of being bland and uninspiring. At a time when both Kia and Hyundai could \"out-curve\" any auto company in terms of exterior design, overwrought styling cues no longer guarantee a public image of exuberance.
Hence, not even a beautiful car like the S60 has been able to rescue the brand from the doldrums.
What Volvo needs--around the world and more so in the Philippines--is a measured dose of excitement. Its target buyers must see its cars as fun vehicles, not just a very safe means of hopping from boardroom to boardroom. When even luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz and Lexus are trumpeting their performance divisions--AMG for the former and F Sport for the latter--Volvo can\'t hope to survive just by constantly reminding the market that it invented the modern seatbelt and that its cars have so many airbags you\'d probably find one specifically designed to protect your iPhone.
In other words, Volvo needs to convince its market that its cars can be just as sporty as any from BMW.
Enter Polestar Racing, Volvo\'s motorsports arm that\'s also based in Sweden. Founded in 1996, Polestar has competed in such series as the World Touring Car Championship and the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship. Everything from its name to its activities is cool. Exactly what Volvo needs to attach its languid brand to.
Last night, Volvo Philippines announced to the motoring press that the S60, the XC60 and the XC90 can now be had with Polestar-tuned engines as well as R-Design bodykit--at no additional cost to the buyer. This is electrifying news, of course, especially if you\'re a Volvo customer.
An S60 equipped with a T6 engine, for instance, now sees its power output bumped from 304hp to a more muscular 329hp. That\'s on top of R-Design 18-inch alloy wheels, diffuser, rear spoiler, sport bumper, sport exhaust tips, sport gear knob and sport pedals. All of these--again, in case you missed it--for absolutely nothing. Which means you will pay the same money as if you\'re buying a regular-version S60 T6, which currently sells at P3.795 million.
The difference in track performance, as tested by race driver Georges Ramirez, is nothing to sniff at: 3.5 seconds from 0 to 60kph (versus the standard\'s 3.9 seconds); 3.8 seconds from 30kph to 80kph (versus the standard\'s 4.5 seconds); 4 seconds from 80kph to 120kph (versus the standard\'s 4.9 seconds); and a slalom track time of 10.3 seconds (versus the standard\'s 10.8 seconds).
The Polestar-tuned engines and the R-Design cosmetic stuff are also being offered for the P3.095-million S60 2.0T, the P2.795-million S60 T4, the P3.895-million XC60 D5, and the P4.995-million XC90 D5.
Will this sporty package be enough to defibrillate Volvo\'s sales performance in our market? Honestly, we don\'t see why it won\'t do the trick. It\'s a brilliant gimmick: Not only is Volvo Philippines taking the opportunity to introduce Polestar to our market, the company is also using this campaign to communicate value-laden thrill to its customers.
Yes, Volvo remains to be a foremost champion of automotive safety, but it\'s about to prove it can also live dangerously every now and then. Very Swedish. Very Stig Blomqvist.
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