Taking Audi’s engineering as an inspiration (front and four-wheel drive, five-cylinder engines in 10v and 20v form), Volvo planned to modernise its image and engineering, and head upmarket. But two decades on, its global sales are stuck at around 420,000. And even board members lament that its customer base still wants simple, unflashy, reliable cars.
A decade of mould-breaking design has failed to change perceptions when faced with the longevity of 240 and 700 and 900-series estate cars, which still litter the streets in key markets like the UK and California.
Volvo’s ad campaigns also bravely – and cleverly - try and sex up the company’s load-lugging image by spinning it out as the brand of choice for cool outdoorsy types. When the reality, for the V70, is probably more prosaic. But the image shift has proved elusive.
So, despite interest in Volvo from developing market companies, Ford isn’t going to sell its Swedish subsidiary. Instead, Ford HQ is going to send in its best brains from its highly successful European arm to rethink Volvo’s failing drive upmarket.