End of an era as Swedish production of Volvo XC90 stops after 12 years
- After more than 636,000 cars, production of current XC90 stops today
- Last XC90 out of Torslanda plant joins Volvo Museum collection
- Torslanda plant now prepares for production of all-new XC90
Today marks the end of an era for Volvo Cars as production in Sweden of the iconic XC90 – a car that revolutionised the global SUV sector – comes to an end after 12 highly successful years.
The story began on 7 January 2002, when Volvo Car Corporation launched an eagerly awaited new model at the Detroit Motor Show. It was a car that dealers and customers principally in America had been yearning for – the Volvo XC90.
A car that would be awarded more than 100 international distinctions, including "SUV of the Year" as early as 2003, and that was named Sweden's most valuable export product, with an annual export value of more than SEK 40 billion in the peak years. Before sales started in 2003, Volvo's dealers had already received 15,000 orders.
636,143 XC90s produced
But all good things must come to an end. After producing 636,143 XC90s, a legend of the car world will leave the factory in Torslanda today to make room for the next generation of the XC90. The last XC90 made in Gothenburg will be driven directly to the Volvo Museum, also located in Gothenburg. However, production of the current XC90 will continue in Volvo's new car plant in Daqing later in the year, under the name of Volvo XC Classic, which will only be sold in China.
The all-new Volvo XC90 will also be produced in the Torslanda factory. The car, which will be revealed in August, will start production at the end of January 2015.
Hans-Olov Olsson, who is currently the Vice Chairman of Volvo Car Corporation's Board of Directors, was responsible for sales in the USA at the end of the 1990s. In 1998, he succeeded in convincing the company's then CEO, Tuve Johannesson, that the company should invest in an SUV.
In August 1998, Volvo Cars project director Hans Wikman was commissioned to develop a proposal for a modern, 7-seater SUV that was not too large. The car project was named P28, was to be based on the same platform as the Volvo S80 and should be launched in 2002. The aim was to sell 50,000 cars a year, a goal that would be beaten by a clear margin – during the peak years 2004-2007, around 85,000 cars were sold each year. The USA has been the largest single market for the XC90, with record figures achieved in 2004 (38,800 cars sold) and 2005 (36,200).
At the same time as drawing up three design proposals, two in California and one in Gothenburg, a female reference group was brought together in California, including Swedish actress Maud Adams, to contribute their wishes and comments, as American women would make up a large proportion of the intended target group.
41°C in the desert
The 4th of May 1999 was an important day for the project. In temperatures of 41°C, the three design proposals were presented at Volvo Cars’ test track outside Phoenix, Arizona. Senior management and some members of the future project management attended the gathering, with the aim of reaching agreement on the focus of the design. The winning exterior proposal was designed by Doug Frasher from Volvo's Concept & Monitoring Center in California, who also designed the exterior of the Volvo S80.
Hans Wikman remembers the feeling when the management team inspected the three design alternatives under the burning desert sun:
"Everyone in the project team was a little tense. After all, the SUV programme had been put on ice a couple of times before. We now had our fingers crossed that the design and the planned content would be good enough so that the management would approve it with no reservations. And that is exactly what happened."
Shot in the arm for the SUV segment
However, many critics felt that Volvo Car Corporation was entering the SUV segment too late in 2002. However, the XC90 came to be a shot in the arm for the entire segment by resolving many of the problems experienced in earlier SUVs.
"We were using the working hypothesis 'The Next Generation SUV'," explains Hans Wikman. "In other words, in the XC90 we were going to show innovative solutions for the drawbacks for which the SUVs of the time were known”
These solutions included:
- The potential to create a flat cargo floor behind the front seats;
- Driving properties equivalent to those of a regular car;
- Leading fuel economy within the segment.
Five global innovations
The Volvo XC90 also presented five global innovations when the car was introduced in 2002:
- RSC (Roll Stability Control), a system that uses a gyro sensor to detect and counter the risk of overturning, and ROPS (Roll Over Protection System) to optimise the protection for everyone in the car in the event that, despite everything, it should still overturn.
- Inflatable side curtains for all three rows of seats.
- An integrated, adjustable booster cushion for children in the second row.
- Seat belts with "tensioners" for all seats.
- A lower crossbeam at the front, which had the task of activating the car's safety systems in the event of a collision.
More than a decade later, the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) still ranked the XC90 as one of the safest cars on the market by naming it the 2014 Top Safety Pick+.
The Volvo XC90 was launched with a range of five and six-cylinder engines. All were transversely mounted in accordance with Volvo's powertrain concept. In 2004, the range was extended with a powerful, transversely mounted V8 engine made of aluminium, which was combined with a six speed automatic gearbox.
"We have learnt a great deal from the first generation XC90"
Now the first generation XC90 will make room for the next, a car that has made advances in terms of development and content at least on a par with the first.
"I am convinced that our customers will be very pleased," says Dennis Nobelius, who is primarily responsible for the all-new XC90. "We have learnt a great deal about the important holistic approach for everyone in the car, when it comes to following up this success."
“Our all-new XC90 is not just a natural development from an incredibly successful car, it is also an excellent example of the transformation underway at Volvo Cars, both within the company and from a brand perspective,” says Lex Kerssemakers, Senior Vice President Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars. “We look forward to a new era of success.
Volvo Cars' all-new XC90 will be the world’s most powerful and cleanest SUV
- All-wheel drive, seven seats, around 400 hp and 472 lb.-ft. of torque with ultra-low emissions of around 60g/km
- Delivering guilt-free luxury SUV ownership
- New Volvo-developed Plug-in Hybrid, Twin Engine technology
Volvo Cars' all-new XC90 will offer an unrivaled combination of power and clean operation when it is launched later this year. The all-wheel drive seven-seater will deliver guilt-free luxury SUV ownership, offering drivers around 400 horsepower but with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of around 60 g/km (NEDC driving cycle). There has never been an SUV offering this level of power this cleanly.
“There are no compromises when you drive an all-new XC90,” said Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research and Development of Volvo Car Group. “In the past you could either have power or low CO2 emissions. But with the all-new XC90 you can have both.”
The new XC90 offers a range of Drive-E engine options, all of which provide an outstanding combination of performance and fuel-efficiency. The main distinguishing feature of the Drive-E engine range is that they are all four-cylinder engines.
“With our new Drive-E powertrains, we have created a family of intelligent gasoline engines with power curves that give exciting drivability at the same time as delivering world-beating fuel economy,” added Dr. Mertens. “With seven people in the new XC90, carbon dioxide emissions per person are outstandingly low."
The CO2 performance of the all-new XC90 will reinforce Volvo Cars’ leadership when it comes to bringing more environmentally-sound technologies to market. According to figures monitored by European car industry association ACEA, Volvo Car Group delivered an industry-leading reduction of average fleet emissions by 8.4 percent from 2012 to 2013.
Plug-in Hybrid - Twin Engine technology
Volvo has made it possible for a four-cylinder engine to provide all the driving pleasure associated with a much larger engine and do so far more efficiently and cleanly. Drive-E engines will, over time, be introduced across Volvo’s entire range and are already available on model year 2015 carlines.
For the all-new XC90, the top of the range plug-in hybrid ‘Twin Engine’ will carry the badge ‘T8’ and be a plug-in electric car, hybrid car and high-performance car rolled into one.
Normal driving is conducted in the default hybrid mode. This utilizes a two-liter; four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E gasoline engine that powers the front wheels and an 80 hp (60 kW) electric motor that drives the rear wheels.
It uses the supercharger to fill in the bottom end of the power range to give the engine a big, naturally-aspirated feel, while the turbocharger kicks in when the airflow builds up. The electric motor on the rear wheels provides immediate torque.
But at the push of a button the driver can switch to quiet and emission-free city driving on pure electric power where the range will be around 25 miles, and then, when needed, immediately revert back to the combined capacity of the gasoline engine and electric motor, with its combined output of around 400 hp and 472 lb.-ft. of torque.
The Volvo XC90 range also includes a T6 gasoline engine option. The T6 turbo engine with supercharger and turbo will deliver 316 hp and a maximum torque of 295 lb.-ft. The T6 is expected to offer a best-in-class combination of power and fuel economy, even when compared to diesel models.
Not only is there no compromise in terms of performance or efficiency, but Volvo Cars’ new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) chassis technology also allows for far more flexibility inside the car. Other carmakers have struggled to combine the bulk of a battery pack with a luxurious and spacious interior, something that Volvo has managed to overcome.
“Since our new SPA technology is designed from the start to accommodate electrification technologies, the Twin Engine installation does not compromise luggage or passenger space,” said Dr. Mertens.
Dock Talk: Spanish entry begins catch-up campaign with under 100 days to go
ALICANTE, Spain, July 4 – Spain’s new entry for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 arrived in its home country this week as offshore sailing’s biggest event began its 100-day countdown to the start on October 4.
Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernández, who spearheaded Spain’s Team Telefónica challenge in 2011-12, sailed the new Volvo Ocean 65 the 650 nautical miles down the English Channel and through the Bay of Biscay to their training base in Galicia, Spain earlier this week.
The Spanish challenge was only announced last month and is now playing catch-up with the rest of the six-strong fleet preparing for the Alicante in-port race on October 4, which marks the start of the event.
“We are going to try as hard as we can,” said Martínez. “A lot of work still lays ahead and it won’t be easy. We have a lot of catch-up to do but we are going to try as hard as we can.” Martínez and Fernández, former Olympic champions and Sailors of the Year, now have the task of assembling the crew for a boat that has yet to confirm its skipper or its main title sponsor.
Team Alvimedica, meanwhile, will be announcing their line-up next week (July 7) in their home port of Newport, Rhode Island, but successfully completed their naming ceremony there at the weekend when former U.S. surgeon general Dr Regina Benjamin did the honours.
Three days after their crew announcement, Team Alvimedica will join Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing on a transatlantic trip from Newport. The Emirates-backed team headed by British skipper Ian Walker are already in competition shape following a very successful trip across the Atlantic in 10 days. The crew revealed they worked in full race mode with freeze-dried food, dishes rinsed with saltwater and the sailors only brought one change of clothes. As 24-year-old Australian crewmember Luke Parkinson pointed out: “We’re here to win, not shave.”
After publicly announcing their race crew squad of 10 in Lorient, France last Thursday, Dongfeng Race Team’s mix of four Chinese, five French and a Swede went back to the gym and inshore training this week. The Chinese quartet has extra classes – English lessons – to add to their preparations for the race start and ensure communication goes smoothly when the real competition commences.
Team SCA’s all-women crew have finally been given a break from training in Lanzarote but with the fitness schedule and instructions they received before leaving, it is not much of a holiday. Their onboard reporter Corinna Halloran explained: “We are on a conveyor belt – a very exciting one. When we get back in 10 days we’ll go through all sorts of tests including a blood one. So if you’ve been on a bender for the past week, they know it immediately. After all, you’ve got 100 days to be your ultimate you.”
Team Brunel are, meantime, preparing to return to Lanzarote. The Dutch team have been spending the last month in the North Sea where they have visited Dutch, German and Danish ports. They depart The Netherlands on Saturday and should arrive in their training base at the Marina Rubicon around July 13 or 14. “I can feel in my stomach that the race is getting closer,” said crewmember Gerd-Jan Poortman. “We are ready to go back to Lanzarote with a new energy.”