Yesterday was a big day for Volvo. It made two key announcements: one was a plan that will save it £35m over the next 12 months, and the other was the launch of the new S80L, a version of the company’s flagship saloon that’s been stretched by 140mm between the wheels, and is designed to “provide all the security needed by Chinese governmental and business customers”.
The Volvo S80L will be “the most luxurious car Volvo has ever made,” according to Volvo China boss Alexander Klose. It gets a fridge for the back seats, rear-seat entertainment, a T6 AWD powertrain - even comfier leather seats than the standard S80. It’s the sort of car, in other words, that European Volvo fans might hanker after – even if it’s probably still not a proper rival for a BMW 7-series or Mercedes S-class.
The car will be built at China’s Chongqing plant as part of the joint venture that Ford set up with Changan Motors back in 2003.
Volvo’s success as a premium brand for developing markets is well documented. For several years it was Russia’s number one premium car brand, and this car stands to strengthen its hand in the Chinese car market which, only this year, overtook the US as the largest in the world.
So given that Volvo is already surrendering the technology in its flagship saloon to Changan, and that parent Ford has existing and developed links with the firm – and given that the firm has effectively just put its house in order financially for the next 12 months at least – what odds do you think I’d get on a Changan buyout of Volvo going through before, say, the end of the summer?
I’ve had a word with our resident industry expert Hilton Holloway here at Autocar Towers, and he reckons it’s the likeliest outcome so far mooted. So if it does happen, remember – you read it here first.