Strategic change at Volvo - less station wagon - more SUV

For people who are not so young anymore, the brand from Gothenburg is representative of the station wagon. You have a 240 or 850 in front of your eyes, one speaks of a Volvo. That could soon be a thing of the past. The brand is moving further and further away from its roots. The strategists at Hisingen are not to blame for this. It's the vote of the customers. And that is clear.

Swedish Heritage - Volvo 240 Classic
Swedish Heritage - Volvo 240 Classic

Volvo = station wagon. That was once.

When I was a child, Volvo stood for station wagon. There were several 240 among friends. Solid as a castle and reliable. No comparison to the fragile Ford my father drove. My grandfather's Benz alone was able to keep up. However, the Volvos weren't all solid. I always found them a bit boring.

The story of the station wagon goes on at Volvo for decades. She uses the cliché of the schoolteacher driving a Volvo or the neighbor with the knitted sweater. It made film history, in countless Hollywood films the intellectuals were out and about in a station wagon from Gothenburg. Mandatory.

Anything else would have been unthinkable.

But the behavior of buyers has changed over the years. Today's schoolteacher has long been driving a Tesla, the one with the knitted sweater has not had his own car for a long time. He relies on car sharing. Volvo customers are turning to SUVs today, and they overwhelmingly do so. Around 75% are currently, says Volvo. For station wagons and sedans, only every fourth customer warms up. And Hollywood no longer relies on the Gothenburg brand.

That's not enough, says CEO Håkan Samuelsson Coach. Volvo will reduce the range of sedans and station wagons and instead add more SUVs to the range. Because more SUV equals more growth. A sedan or a station wagon will continue to be found at Volvo, but not to this extent.

Of course, it is difficult to design a conventional station wagon with the usual electric car architectures. The user literally rides through the world on an 800 volt battery pack, which forces a higher construction. Since Volvo is now completely committed to the electric car, the decision is only the logical consequence.

The station wagon was a Swedish cultural asset

In the medium term, you have to say goodbye to the station wagon with the Volvo logo. It's a shame, because this is a piece of Swedish cultural heritage and shaped generations who grew up on the back seat of a 240 or 850. The world, and not just the Volvo brand world, will become more uniform as a result. Traveling around the area on SUV high seats is getting harder and harder to avoid, but it clearly seems to be what the majority of customers want.

However, the old Volvo station wagons are also durable and have a solid fan base. They won't disappear that completely from the streets for the foreseeable future. The classic 240 series is sought after and not cheap, the 850 is attracting. Cultural assets from Gothenburg have a future. It doesn't have to be electric.

13 thoughts on "Strategic change at Volvo - less station wagon - more SUV"

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    @ StF,

    So you have my thumbs up for your last comment simply because the increase in registered vehicles is certainly the bigger problem.

    However, I still cannot follow the rest of the argument.

    If vehicles of the "compact class" today have an external volume, weight and performance data that are similar to or even far exceed the younger "upper middle class" (Golf up to 235 kW), then buyers hardly have any leeway to find models at all. with which one could downsize.

    For the sake of fun, compare the Variant Golf VIII with a 9K. Or the latest 1 Series (also “compact class”) with the first 3 Series (“middle class”) BMW. If I have that in my head, then the 1 Series is 18 cm wider and significantly higher, the "compact class" is more voluminous, heavier, stronger than the "middle class".

    And once you get to the 1 Series, there is not much that can be poked down to the bottom. BMW would have to build a 0,5 ...

    But they don't. I think the external growth of the vehicles is also part of the problem. In order to maintain the same utility value (e.g. trunk), one needs a larger, heavier and usually more powerful vehicle today.

    What the technical progress could have meant in terms of savings potential (CO2 emissions), with its model policy and the design of ever larger and heavier vehicles, the automotive industry has consumed and gambled away opportunities. I do not accept that the customer would have wanted it that way, because, as I said, utility and trunk did not contribute to growth. There was definitely a certain pressure on customers to get bigger, heavier and faster cars. And now we have the salad ...

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    @ Volvaab Driver

    Is there a trend towards doing without? Generally not. Gradually there are such tendencies that buyers think that a Brilliance (when you could still get them in this country), a BAIC, or a Dacia are enough cars and also expensive enough for individual vehicle traffic. But there are also those in the classic vehicle classes.

    With the additional equipment that is now installed in vehicles, they have probably not really gotten any lighter. I'm really not sure about the size. It could be that the mean vehicle size is actually slightly smaller today than it was 20 years ago, but even if that is the case, that doesn't really matter because of the actual problem, namely that the number of vehicles has increased very significantly.

    And that is what most proponents of the traffic turnaround say, that the number of vehicles has to decrease, otherwise battery or hydrogen cars, nor burners with synthetic fuels will do anything.
    If you look at how it is now z. B. looks like in rush hour traffic, then the assessment is probably not wrong, I would say.

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    @ StF,

    that wasn’t meant badly. And certainly some people today actually have smaller cars than before - no matter how the model was christened by the manufacturer and classified by motor journalists ...

    The trend towards size (the outer ones) seemed so clear to me that I assumed I couldn't make a mistake. Of course, you can also perceive it differently. But a general trend towards smaller and lighter vehicles?

    Is that what you're getting at or are we splitting hair here?

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    @ Volvaab Driver

    I didn't deny that the models in the respective class almost always grew. But let's just check what my impression is.
    Since the focus here is on Saab, I'll take averaged Wikipedia data from the first Saab 9-5 as a model of the upper middle class, around the turn of the millennium, and compare it with the averaged Wikipedia data from the current Golf:

    Saab 9-5 (length ~ 4,83m, width ~ 1,79m, height ~ 1,47m, wheelbase ~ 2,70m, mass ~ 1.662kg)
    Golf VIII (length ~ 4,46m, width ~ 1,79m, height ~ 1,49m, wheelbase ~ 2,64m, weight ~ 1.440kg)

    I am not claiming that this is a conclusive evaluation, but it looks to me as if a current compact car has an advantage over a 20-year-old upper mid-range vehicle in terms of parking space consumption and weight. And even if the space available in the passenger area is probably not that different, it looks quite different in the trunk.
    But there have been more than one comparable vehicle change in my circle of friends. Of course, I also notice that Range Rover, Audi Q7 and other bullets of this caliber are also on the streets, but in my opinion not too many. Sure, there are more SUVs than before, but fewer large sedans. And there are enough Opel Corsa and Hyundai i10s that are even smaller than a current Golf and push the cut again. Just by the way, there are definitely more trucks on the road than before, but that's not the topic here.

    This mix of vehicles is, of course, just my impression and it may be that it looks quite different in areas that I rarely go to or not at all. For example, I tend not to be in the north end of Frankfurt, or comparable areas in other cities. I just don't know anyone personally who is so well off.
    But of course these people also exist. And big cars are not only driven by particularly wealthy people. A colleague of mine drives z. B. a Dodge Charger, but several others have a Golf.

    My impression is that there are more compact cars than family cars on the road today than in the past. Actually, I didn't say more, but not less either. Your impression can be quite different, so you don't have to buy anything from me, but you are welcome to describe your perceptions here.

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    @ StF (social circles & vehicle classes),

    You know better than that. They always write comments that make me think and bring me new insights. Many Thanks.

    This is not one of them. The fact that vehicle classes are dynamic can be seen very well in the Gulf. The Golf I could almost be parked in the trunk of the latest Golf Estate ...

    So what is the golf class?

    And at BMW, the youngest 1 Series is now as big as the first 5 Series - at least on the outside.

    Whatever social circle you associate with. I am very confident that in this circle the external dimensions of the possessed and moved vehicles have not shrunk. That would be almost grotesque….

    Whether the classification is a downgrade or not is a completely different matter. Today, the cars of the lower middle class are easily as big and also heavier, stronger and faster than the contenders for the upper class not so long ago.

    The figures (external dimensions, weight, performance data) are pretty clear and incorruptible and it speaks a different language than the manufacturers themselves or "independent" and advertising-financed journalists.

    Whatever is being driven in their social circles, I would be very surprised if cars A were smaller, B lighter and C slower than they were 20 years ago. I don't buy it like that.

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    Interesting thought about the fortress. Hasn't even occurred to me like this before. If it should actually be relevant for a larger number of SUV customers, there is of course the possibility that it could connect with the trend towards autonomous vehicles in an interesting way, if this development actually picks up speed.

    In the fully autonomous vehicle you can do without the windows entirely and in the semi-autonomous vehicle you could at least darken them in the autonomous mode. Loosely based on Douglas Adams, if I don't see the unpleasant environment, it can't hurt me either. Let's see if things really go in that direction.

    But what worries me more, are the cars really getting bigger and bigger on our roads? If you look at a particular model and look at its development from the 90s to the present day, in most cases that is certainly true.
    But when I look at what people around me drove and drive, then many who drove a vehicle from the middle or upper middle class 20 years ago have today a car from the lower middle class, commonly referred to as the golf class. This means that the external dimensions are even likely to have shrunk slightly and the internal dimensions have remained about the same.

    But maybe I only move around in the wrong social circles without being aware of it until now.

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    @ Jean-Pierre James Elsner + aero50,

    nice comments. Both together paint a fitting picture of what was, is and is still going to be a trend.

    The 940 station wagon is still the largest car (inner size) that I have ever driven. Even the 240 was great on this point. Today it finally looks like a small car. Maybe longer, but so slim and delicate that today's small cars appear comparatively monumental and voluminous.

    However, their practical use seems to play a completely subordinate role. Big boxes around small interior and hardly any trunk. Indeed, it is about distancing and locking out the outside world - from small cars to XL SUVs.

    They all show the same design features, wide chassis and shoulder pads on hunched shoulders. In between and on top of it a small head with few windows. Especially not to the back (who knows what's coming?).

    Such strongholds can only be driven with assistance systems, parking aids, cameras and so on. When I think about the fact that, as a teenager, I was with a full-grown pointing dog, brother, exchange student from F and parents including luggage for 5 of us, a small sailboat and a surfboard (both on the roof) safely and easily in a 240 to DK and back to D am ...

    ... then it seems to me today as if I shouldn't trust this memory. Was that really the case? Could a 240 do that? It's so small ...

    Did I really have a dog back then, an exchange student who passionately lost to me at chess (favorite word “merdé”), have I ever surfed anywhere but the Internet? Did I ever drive the 240 myself later? One 940, one 9K, one 9-3 I and other Saab and Volvos?

    If my memory didn't deceive me, why would we be where we are today? Can that be progress? Has there ever been a station wagon from Volvo and Saab's river basin? Is this blog real or part of my imagination? I don't remember all of this exactly anymore ...

    What I think I know is that design and fashion work cyclically. The topic of the stronghold seems to me to be exhausted soon. At least I hope so. How high could you pull your shoulders without your head disappearing entirely?
    And maybe in the future there will actually be vehicles on the market that are more geared towards utility and space economy?

    The current trend can hopefully not last forever, it seems to me to be completely exhausted. It will be interesting to see whether Volvo can still make progress with its announcements, or if a trend reversal is overslept and the water digs itself off ...

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    @ aero50 - Advertising can only solidify an already existing need. And obviously the need for security and invulnerability has become very great for many people in recent years. The outward sign that this need is there and that it is urgent is the purchase of an SUV.

    The current social insecurity will increase the trend towards the defiant, castle-like large car in the form of many SUVs.

    In English we say 'my home's my castle' and today's castle is the SUV.

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    do today's manufacturers even have their own DNA? Or to put it another way, can they afford one? Even Porsche, one of the best sports car manufacturers, makes at least 40 to 50% of its sales with SUVs.

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    We also drive an SUV (Ateca). But the vehicle registration also says station wagon ...
    @ areo50: it is true, the space is becoming less and more and more bigger cars are buying.
    Unfortunately, it is often only the outside dimension that is larger, inside it is tighter in new cars.
    When I think of my Golf 3, what fit in there when moving ... That never fit in another newer Golf ....
    Greeting André

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    Well written. Great punchlines. For example the role in Hollywood.

    As far as the customers' vote is concerned, I think that they have always liked to buy an “SUV”, even if it wasn't called that back then ...
    Anyone who has ever driven an old Volvo over hill and dale knows what I mean. The 245 was an SUV for me. Sports equipment could be transported endlessly in the trunk and on the roof and, with its relatively short wheelbase and relatively high ground clearance, also on unpaved roads to (almost) every place in the world where you wanted to use it (sports equipment).

    That was exactly what was originally and originally the definition of the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), which was supposed to close the gap between real off-road vehicles and cars optimized for the road.

    You could also call it a compromise. At the time, motor journalists often accused Volvo of building such (compromises). It first took its own category (SUV) and resourceful marketing in order to put compromise-ready vehicle concepts (with cutbacks in off-road suitability and road performance) in a positive light and to be able to present them as a deliberate construction for a target group and to be able to address them specifically and accompanied by motor journalistic applause .

    To cut a long story short: If Volvo were to build its station wagons as a compromise in the positive sense of the word, it wouldn't need an SUV just to confidently master a few field or forest paths, the access to the beach, to one's own holiday home or to a holiday home ...

    By aligning their station wagons, sedans and coupés more and more to the performance and driving characteristics of sports cars, automobile manufacturers have at the same time created a move away from these vehicle types and a trend towards SUVs.
    This is nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The rapidly increasing prices for a good 245 should, in my opinion, lead to some thought in Gothenburg.
    Perhaps not every step that leads away from one's own roots is automatically a step forward?

    It's hard to say, but if Volvo were to disappear from the scene here and now, I would probably just shrug my shoulders.

    My personal potential to mourn has long been used up by other losses (Saab & private).
    I wouldn't have anything left for electric Geely SUVs.

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    After returning from the black continent, I bought a Volvo 1993 station wagon in 940. A good and spacious car. The 940 station wagon was considered a big vehicle at the time. Four people and a lot of luggage were definitely not a problem for the Volvo. Today, when such a lonely 940 station wagon stands next to a Tiguan or even Tuareg, the 940 is just a car (that's Swiss German and means a small car ;-).

    The less space on our streets, the bigger the cars! But why? In the end, they don't offer any more space, they're just big! I can only think of one answer, the market demands it ?! But what was actually first? The need for an SUV was first awakened by advertising and then fired until it was waved. Today every retired couple thinks they have to surround themselves with 2 tons of sheet metal.

    Volvo will know how to handle this in the future, or rather, the expected success will prove them right. But they won't sell me a car anymore.

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    Unfortunately, this is a general trend, as one has to realize with frustration. Practical station wagons with a lot of utility are becoming increasingly rare to buy. Everything is moving towards a standard car. I don't even buy a car newspaper anymore. What are 10 new SUVs interested in? The design is interchangeable and I miss surprises.


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