Volvo will limit the top speed of all of its cars to 112mph (180km/h) from 2020. The move is motivated by the company's intention that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by that date, the Swedish car maker said.
In a statement, Volvo said that “technology alone will not get it all the way to zero”, adding that the firm “is now broadening its scope to include a focus on driver behaviour”. The limit will apply to all cars made from mid-2020 onwards and going on sale in 2021.
Volvo referenced the limitations of technology to prevent accidents and injuries above certain speeds, citing data from the US National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration showing that 25% of road fatalities in the US in 2017 were a result of speeding.
“Volvo is a leader in safety. We always have been and we always will be,” said Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson. "Because of our research, we know where the problem areas are when it comes to ending serious injuries and fatalities in our cars. And while a speed limitation is not a cure-all, it’s worth doing if we can even save one life. Speed kills, and there is no reason to go beyond 112mph."
"Volvo is not a car for those who are boy racers. Our value is for people who want to protect what’s important further. We will get some questions and critics for this, but we’re sure we will gain more customers than we will lose."
The top speeds of Volvo's current models range from 118mph to 155mph.
Samuelsson said the 112mph figure had been chosen because it stille exceeded the regulations in virtually every country, bar limited stretches of the autobahn in Germany. "We decided that 112mph is the limit of what more people want to do," he said. "Outside Germany, it’s seen as a high speed. It was a process of balance: we didn’t want to scare anybody who was thinking of buying a Volvo by putting it too low. But this is a limit where nobody should need a faster car."
Samuelsson added that he hoped the move would spark an industry debate over speeds: "It’s logical to start with a brand that has safety as a core value. Let’s see how other car brands react. We are making a statement. Speed kills, and we need to encourage limitations."
Cutting top speeds could have other benefits for Volvo, too: it is likely to help reduce engine emissions, and can be beneficial for improving the range of electric cars.
Volvo is also investigating geo-fencing technology to see if it could further limit the speeds of its cars in sensitive areas, such as near schools.
“We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behaviour, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction,” said Samuelsson. “We don’t have a firm answer to this question but believe we should take leadership in the discussion and be a pioneer.”
Volvo safety expert Jan Ivarsson said: “As humans, we all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much. People often drive too fast in a given traffic situation and have poor speed adaption in relation to that traffic situation and their own capabilities as a driver. We need to support better behaviour and help people realise and understand that speeding is dangerous.”