Big things are happening at Volvo.
The Swedish automaker has impressed lately with a fresh line of cars based on the Lego-like Scaled Product Architecture (SPA) and Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platforms. The latest models in that line are the 2019 V60 wagon and S60 sedan. The latter is the first Volvo built in the United States; cars are now rolling out of a new factory in Charleston, South Carolina. Volvo is also pushing to add a hybrid or all-electric powertrain to every model by 2019, and is collaborating with Google on infotainment systems.
Anders Gustafsson, Volvo Americas CEO, is at the center of all of this change. During a test drive event for the S60 in California, Gustafsson sat down with Digital Trends to discuss Volvo’s future plans and its uniquely Swedish approach to designing and selling cars.
It’s kind of a cycle plan. When we took the decision, it was the only car left in the cycle plan to build here. So that’s really a very easy question.
You love them!
So true, but that can change very fast.
It’s our DNA. Where I come from, Sweden, just the V60 will get 80 percent market share. And, of course, we are very, very strong in Europe around that car. I think we see some opportunities here, too.
Of course. Swedes, we’re humble, but if customers would like to buy that car, we’re going to build that car. So let’s see. The interest has been tremendous, and I think the design sticks out, in the Volvo way, not too much, and it’s a very fun car to drive. Also, it’s a kind of boost and DNA related to our electrification strategy. I would like to sell more, absolutely.
It’s a big part of the business model. If you’d like to add more horsepower, better brakes, it’s a separate structure. Then of course we have the Polestar company [launching as a standalone brand]. That is a different setup. But the engineering part will exist, and we will develop it, and we will use it in the future.
It will be in 2020. The exact month I do not have.
All of us, all of the manufacturers, need to help each other. Because charging is one of the biggest obstacles to growing this kind of responsibility, and it is a responsibility. I’m 100 percent sure that the customers will help us. Because if the customers would like to have BEVs [battery-electric vehicles], I’m sure we’ll find a solution. I’m not so concerned about that.
But we will not try to be super smart and do something by ourselves. We will jump together with a partner, so we can run faster and get scale as soon as possible.
I would like to say the mild [hybrid] or PHEV is something we start with. We’ll build up a kind of knowledge about it, that it’s not complicated. It takes some time to kind of get into that electrification world.
But we really see that the customers are asking for it. Right now, we have a tough time producing in line with demand. We could really send all of the cars to the west coast quite easily and sell all of the cars there, because there is more of a distinct, clear interest. But we have decided to put the volumes in all the regions in the U.S. to build up kind of an interest around electrification.
So too, the price point we have decided on that car can attract a lot of customers. It’s not as expensive as a PHEV, because with a PHEV you need to have one combustion engine and one electric engine, so there’s a bit more cost related to it. I think it’s going to go fast, but the only thing I know is that the customers decide.
We are working with a production capacity, and the capacity of batteries, that is our job, and then we will take it in steps. We should never force something onto a customer. Therefore, we have the PHEV today. Then we’re going to mild [hybrid], 48-volt solutions. So the customer gets used to that, and then we move them over to BEVs.
First of all, our statement related to ’19 and ’20 is that we are going to have a full electrification strategy for all of our models. That is our first decision.
The [all-electric powertrain] is going to of course be launched in one car from our portfolio today; that exists today. Then it will be rolled out to all our models very, very quickly, because we have a platform strategy that is CMA and SPA [the two platforms that underpin all current Volvos]. That’s the reason why CMA and SPA are so important, because it’s plug and play. It’s just a different top half on the same structure. We’re not going to cherry pick one unique product. That’s not our strategy.
Yes. Combustion engines with efficiency, three cylinders, four cylinders, whatever, are going to continue to exist. We are not so nave that we can transfer all of our customers faster than our competitors, even though our customers, based on what we know, are quite smart. I think we’re going to be a little bit faster, but we don’t have the scale for it. We will have combustion engines in a combination with 48-volt [electrical systems]. That will help us reduce emissions.
It’s common sense that is based on CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations]. Even if demands here get a little bit softer, the rest of the world is getting tougher. If we don’t fix this, we’re going to get big fines. We need to speed up.
We go for our strengths. In this area, there are companies that run so much faster, and they are doing a better job in that area. It’s better to find partnerships because they need things from us. We are building very safe cars, and they of course would like to understand what we see in the future. We should learn from each other. That’s really the answer. They are quite good at this, so why should we try to compete with them? We compete with other things instead.