Volvo has admitted it has work to do to transform the image of the brand away from big, dull estates.
The manufacturer, which has completed its sale from Ford to Chinese company Geely, has worked its way back into profitability in recent years and will introduce the new Volvo S60 – labelled the most dynamic Volvo model yet by Kevin Meeks, Volvo UK’s network and business development manager - in September this year.
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But Meeks admits there is a long way to go for the Swedish manufacturer to change the perception of the brand.
“Heritage is our achilles heel," he explained. “We still have a job to do in terms of perception which is why we encourage our dealers to put models like the C70 and C30 at the front of the showroom window - cars some people may not expect to see from Volvo."
However, he also revealed he was pleased with the growth of the company under tough economic conditions in the past two years.
“We now have a bigger range of cars and we have moved on from where we were 20 years ago. We are bang on two per cent market share and our brand recognition is on the way up through such things as our involvement with the Twilight series.""
A recent television advertising campaign has attempted to use the popularity of the Twilight films to appeal to a younger audience, but the company hasn’t abandoned its past philosophy entirely.
The new S60 will be the brand’s first model to feature Volvo’s safety collision warning system and the car is fitted out with a host of other safety equipment such as pedestrian protection, driver alert control, blind spot information system and lane departure warning.
The S60 has also been tested on British roads to fine-tune the suspension and improve handling.
Chris Wailes, Volvo’s European product and pricing manager, said: “It was important that this car is fun to drive because this is what buyers in this segment are looking for. We have to be up there with the best such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4."
The S60 will cost less than the German models when it arrives in September, with prices starting at £23,295.
Sale to Geely
In future, the Volvo brand will be taken care of by Geely after a £1.14 billion sale from Ford. The new owners are keen to build a new future for the brand, but have also looked to the past with the appointment of former Volvo Cars CEO Hans-Olov Olsson as Vice-Chairman.
It is not so much out with the old and in with the new at Volvo – the company headquarters will also remain in Sweden – but under the control of Geely, Volvo is hoping to change perceptions and create a new, dynamic brand to compete with the German premium manufacturers.
The Volvo S60 is a blend of typical Volvo safety and reliability coupled with a desire to become more dynamic and appeal to a younger, more upwardly mobile customer.
The brand, under the watchful eye of new Chairman Li Shufu, will rely greatly on the success of the S60, and the 2011 V60 to reshape the heritage of a brand entering a new chapter as a Geely-owned company.