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Volvo C30 Wins AutoPacific 2008 Ideal Vehicle Award for Image Compact Car

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Image Compact Cars are products where style typically trumps absolute function. The Volvo C30 seems to appeal to owners on both emotional and rational levels. Owners’ preferences for the C30’s exterior styling, ride and safety blended well with the interior lighting, seat firmness and level of technology.

Posted in: Awards, Volvo

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Volvo S40 Wins AutoPacific 2008 Ideal Vehicle Award for Luxury Mid-Size Car

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The Volvo S40 was the clear winner in the Luxury Mid-Size Car category. With high ratings for exterior size, visibility, ride, handling and safety, it’s easy to see why the S40 is an Ideal Vehicle. Top marks also were given for seat firmness, interior lighting, wheels and tires and exterior styling.

Posted in: Awards, Volvo

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Cadillac CTS and Volvo C70 Win AutoPacific 2008 Ideal Vehicle Award for Aspirational Luxury Car

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The Cadillac CTS won the 2008 IVA award in the Aspirational Luxury Car segment. Owners rated it highly for its exterior styling and size. It also scored very well in power and acceleration. The infotainment system added to owners’ ratings of the CTS, as it scored highly with respect to level of technology.
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Though the Volvo C70 is only available in one trim level (T5), owners in the Aspirational Luxury Car segment found the C70 well equipped, giving the C70 top honors as a 2008 Ideal Vehicle. Of course, it also comes standard with numerous safety features, sharp wheels and tires, excellent interior lighting and appropriate seat firmness.

Posted in: Awards, Cadillac, Volvo

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2009 Volvo XC60: First Official Pictures

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Formal Worldwide Reveal Set for Geneva Auto Show
Volvo is among several luxury makes adding smaller and smaller crossover SUVs over the coming years, as consumers get more concerned about fuel economy and worldwide regulations get tighter. Whether the European CO2-emissions regulations or U.S. CAFÉ standards, the combination of buyer sensitivity and governmental interference means smaller, more efficient, and lighter vehicles are on the horizon.

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The XC60 goes on sale in the States in early 2009, and will be offered with only one powertrain. This single powertrain, a 285HP six-cylinder, should provide a nice combination between get-up-and-go and efficiency. Judging by these photos, I’m looking forward to seeing the XC60 on the road and getting my chance behind the wheel. Smaller and better-looking than the aging XC90, its size is better suited to my own life. U.S. buyers get their first look in March at the New York auto show.
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There are buyers for whom small but Spartan will not be acceptable, and they are being targeted with vehicles like the XC60. Small, nimble, but still practical in both cargo and their cost-per-mile. Volvo looks to sell 50,000 XC60s around the world, with the United States one of the top five markets. These entries are not poised to take the lion’s share of SUV sales, but they will be important for the bottom line, for meeting regulations, and for keeping market share.
Enough talk. More photos, plus Volvo’s official release, below the fold.


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Volvo C30 Recharge: GM Is Not Alone with Flexible Platform Concept

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Not at all unlike the GM E-Flex platform in concept, shown first under the Chevrolet Volt and in Frankfurt under the Opel Flextreme, the Volvo Recharge at the 2007 Frankfurt show used a lithium-ion battery pack to power individual electric wheel motors. (Follow this link to see Volvo’s press conference.) The internal combustion engine on board is used for backup and battery recharging only, and has no part in moving the vehicle. The Recharge was designed for plug-in application, with Volvo estimating about three hours for a full charge. Volvo estimated the electric-only range to be about 62 miles, leading the company to note that Recharge would be best suited for those with daily round-trip commutes below that distance. While GM has shown its E-Flex platform with concept-car bodies above, Volvo put their new C30 on top of the Recharge platform.

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2007 Frankfurt Motor Show: The Color this Fall Was Green

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I spent two days crisscrossing the massive Frankfurt auto show, and the focus on reducing emissions and improving fuel economy and “green” solutions could not be missed. Very few manufacturers were not talking about fuel economy gains in their powertrain lineup and many announced hybrid plans or showed hybrid concepts. What we’re seeing here is the culmination of years of research, rather than fiberglass what-if models. Many of these hybrids or other technology-based solutions will be on the roads later this decade.

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Mercedes-Benz will, during the 2009CY, offer a hybrid powertrain in the S-Class and the M-Class, while a smart fortwo mild hybrid system goes on sale in October. Porsche gave updated the Cayenne’s diesel for more power but also promises a parallel series hybrid using the existing 3.6L V6 by the end of 2010CY. General Motors took the system shown under the Chevrolet Volt in January, replaced the gasoline engine with a diesel one, and created the Opel Flextreme as well as showing off an Opel Corsa Hybrid. Volvo put a plug-in hybrid into the C30 to create the Recharge concept. Land Rover is adding stop-start systems in 2009CY, and Audi will bring a hybrid to the Q7.
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Small cars are more prevalent on international roads and therefore more prevalent at auto shows outside the United States. Toyota brought us the iQ, Volkswagen the up!, and Ford the Verve. Renault’s latest Twingo was on the show floor as well, though this was not its debut.
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Notable exceptions to the small and green game were Ferrari and the 430 Scuderia (introduced by Michael Schumacher himself), the Aston Martin DBS (officially introduced at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance), the Bentley Continental GTS Speed, the Lamborghini Reventon (of which only twenty will be made, with a price tag around $1.4 million), and Maserati.
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Day two of Frankfurt’s show holds most of the supplier press conferences, leaving us a chance to take photos and see some general reaction. Frankfurt’s convention center has 10 halls, with at least seven of them holding the major manufacturers and others holding aftermarket and supplier stands. Walking the full show requires much time and comfortable shows and several hours. Interest was strong in the Mercedes-Benz F700 Concept (previewing the next S-Class), the Audi A4, Opel’s Flextreme, Ford’s Verve and Kuga, and Jaguar’s XF. Peugeot and Citroen concepts, the 308RCZ and the Airscape, saw plenty of attention, as did Nissan’s very odd-looking Mixim.
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The Volkswagen Tiguan stand was flocked with people getting a chance to get in and crawl around the new model, with plenty also checking out the up! city car. Interestingly, every time I went through hall 6, home to Italian makes Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, Ferrari, and Maserati as well as Porsche and Hyundai it was completely mobbed. On the other hand, Kia’s Kee coupe concept and BMW’s X6 concepts didn’t seem to grab attendees as much.
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While going green may be good for us, hybrid systems and new engine developments don’t make for great pictures or put the enthusiasm into driving that a great-looking design can. Over the coming weeks, we’ll bring you more detailed coverage of many of these. Stay tuned.
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Who Will Ford Sell Parts of PAG To?

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This article appeared in the July 26th web-release by the British business magazine The Economist. VehicleVoice commentary is peppered throughout.
Ford: A costly distraction
July 26th 2007: From The Economist print edition
Ford is selling off its premium brands. Who will buy them?
Ford’s High Hopes for the Premier Automotive Group Never Materialized
WHEN Jacques Nasser, Ford’s boss in the late 1990s, bought two premium European car brands, he had high hopes for his new luxury-car division, which came to be known as the Premier Automotive Group (PAG). By 2005, the firm predicted, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo would sell 1m cars a year, earn more than $1 billion annually and account for about one-third of Ford’s profits. But eight years on the PAG is consistently losing money and sells about one-third fewer cars than predicted—and Ford itself is haunted by the spectre of bankruptcy.
New Ford Regime Under Alan Mulally Puts PAG on the Block Piecemeal
After some initial hesitation Alan Mulally, the chief executive brought in from Boeing last September, decided to put bits of the PAG on the block. In March he sold Aston Martin for $848m, and in June he appointed three banks to field potential buyers for Land Rover and Jaguar. The bidding period ended on July 19th with an unexpectedly high number of potential suitors, thought to include Cerberus Capital Management (the private-equity group that bought Chrysler in May), TPG Capital, Ripplewood Holdings and One Equity Partners (a private-equity firm where Mr Nasser now works), along with India’s Tata Motors and the Mahindra Group.
Click here to find out more!
VehicleVoice Spin: How much of this is circuitous reporting by the international media? Ford has admitted that potential sale of Jaguar and Land Rover is on the horizon, but how accurate is the list of potential bidders The Economist cites? Wouldn’t it be interesting if Cerberus bought Jaguar and Land Rover to be the luxury marques for Chrysler Group?
Ah, Here Comes the Volvo Rumor Again…
Ford is also considering a sale of Volvo, a Swedish maker of premium cars, and the most valuable and profitable bit of the PAG. Last year Volvo is believed to have made a profit, though the PAG as a whole lost $2.3 billion. (Ford does not break out details of the division’s financial results.) But although selling Jaguar and Land Rover would make sense, it is less clear that the same is true of Volvo, says Jonathan Steinmetz, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, an investment bank. Volvo is more integrated into Ford than the two other brands, with several Ford and Volvo vehicles sharing chassis designs and parts. Volvo is also far bigger by units sold—it accounted for 7% of sales in 2006, compared with 3% for Land Rover and 1% for Jaguar—which helps to spread development costs.
Former Chairman of AMC Says Ford Should Unload All of PAG and Tend to Knitting
But Gerald Meyers, a former chairman of the American Motors Corporation, a carmaker bought by Chrysler, thinks Ford should sell all of the PAG and get what cash it can. Since Ford is in the middle of a multi-year turnaround plan, any distraction from rescuing its core American business is counterproductive, he argues. (In a sign that the plan might at last be working, Ford announced a surprise profit of $750m for the second quarter on July 26th.)
Now This One Doesn’t Make Much Sense
BMW of Germany is one possible bidder for Volvo. BMW says it is keeping its eyes open for takeover targets, though it has had its fingers burnt by acquisitions in the past. Volvo and BMW are compatible premium brands, says Marc-René Tonn, an analyst at MM Warburg, an investment bank in Hamburg. But they do not fit technically: Volvos rely on front-wheel drive, BMWs on rear-wheel drive. Renault would be a more logical buyer, says Thierry Huon at Exane, a brokerage in Paris. Renault needs a premium brand, having failed to build one itself. And the Renault and Volvo brands, with their common emphasis on safety, fit together well.
VehicleVoice Spin: BMW tried its hand with “The English Patient” – Rover and Land Rover – in the 1990s. BMW ended up selling Rover to an investment group for £10 and selling Land Rover to Ford for a couple billion dollars. Volvo cars are based on front wheel drive platforms, BMWs are rear wheel drive (with the exception of MINI). There isn’t much synergy here. Much different mindsets as well. This could well be The English Patient all over again if BMW is so anxious to acquire more brands.
Volvo Group Buys Back Volvo… Now That’s an Idea
Another possible buyer is Volvo Group, the lorry-making (heavy trucks, to Americans) parent firm that sold its car unit to Ford in 1999. This would reunite the two divisions, but there are no synergies between carmaking and lorry-making, which is why the cars were spun off. It is more likely that Renault will sell its 21% stake in Volvo Group to help finance its purchase of the carmaker.
Can Ford Recoup Its Investment in Money and Resources in the PAG Units?
Estimates of the proceeds from a sale of the PAG range from $8 billion to $16 billion. Ford could invest the money in its remaining brands—Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Mazda—or in product development. But it would probably be wisest to restructure its health-care liabilities, which it is currently discussing with the United Auto Workers (UAW), the car industry’s main union. Mr Mulally is pressing the UAW to set up a union-managed trust that would enable Ford to take tens of billions of dollars of retiree health-care liabilities off its balance sheet. Such a trust would need to be funded up front—so cash from the sale of the PAG would come in handy.
VehicleVoice Spin: <Ford’s immediate headache is the 2007 UAW negotiations and indeed medical costs are a major part of the equation. Ford needs concessions to improve its profit picture and help guarantee those UAW workers their jobs. But, this is still the car business and Ford has fallen behind. Not as far behind as Chrysler, but General Motors has certainly taken the lead in product development of late. Ford needs to restructure not only the Company but also its product lineup. If getting rid of PAG – including Volvo – gets their attention back on the ball, so be it.
But think of these things… Many Ford middle managers now have positions with PAG brands either in Europe or headquartered in Irvine, California. Would they go back to the mother ship? Have they learned enough at PAG brands to be an asset to Ford? Would their departure hurt the PAG brands further? On the product sharing side, The Economist article rightly states that Volvo, Ford and Mazda are successfully sharing platforms. How could Volvo continue that in a cost-effective way if they were to be sold? The transfer pricing would be a bitch. Don’t forget either that the new Land Rover Freelander II/LR2 shares its architecture with the upcoming Volvo XC60. Wow, this is complicated.


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Here We Go Again… Ford To Sell Volvo!!!!!

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In some ways, we have been remiss with our coverage of the potential restructuring of Ford Motor Company through the sale of Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Most of the reporting in the popular and business media has been tilting at windmills. Reporters reporting rumors without verifying facts. And the latest twitch that Ford is to soon announce it is selling Volvo may indeed be the same.
Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo comprise Ford’s Premier Automotive Group and their American headquarters are just five exits south of AutoPacific on the 5-Freeway. Of course, Ford has already sold off Aston Martin for just shy of $1 billion. Is there more to follow? We don’t KNOW, but we have some ideas.
Is the Press Generating its Own News?
If you have followed the business news, the British press has piled on Ford selling Jaguar and Land Rover. Jim Hall’s June 27 story puts much of the rumor blame on Keith Crain’s Automotive News having overreacted to a short blurb in British car mag Autocar. Once AutoNews ran the story everyone else jumped on. Similarly, recent reports have Ford selling Volvo a much larger and more profitable proposition than selling off Jaguar and/or Land Rover. Would there be a likelihood that Ford could off-load all of PAG? Another don’t KNOW, but it would be difficult. More on that later.
Loans Collateralized by Jaguar/Land Rover/Volvo Assets At Risk?
The huge loans Ford took last year used its automotive assets as collateral. That included Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Should Ford attempt to unload those assets, then the basics of the loan would have to be renegotiated. And Ford’s automotive assets without Jag/LR/Volvo or any of the three may not meet the coverage requirements. That’s another don’t KNOW, but a guess.
Unbundling Product Sharing Will be a Problem
Over the years, Ford Motor Company has attempted to make its product development activities more efficient by sharing products between Ford/Jaguar/Land Rover/Volvo/Mazda. In fact, Ford’s super successful European Focus/Mazda3/Volvo S40/V50 platform has resulted in excellent vehicles for each brand. Similarly, the Land Rover LR2 (Freelander II)/Volvo XC60 will be shared. Ford based the Jaguar S-Type off the LS Platform which also yielded the Lincoln LS, the Ford Thunderbird and, loosely, the Ford Mustang.
While these relationships may be maintained or even strengthened if Ford sells-off one or more of the PAG brands, it won’t be easy.
And if Ford gets rid of its PAG brands it will miss out on the revenue and profit potential of the critically acclaimed Jaguar XF sport sedan and the Volvo XC60 Crossover SUV.
We Believe ‘Em, Don’t We?
So, as of July 18, 2007, we believe it when Ford says it is looking at all options, but that the Company has not made a decision to sell Jaguar, Land Rover or Volvo. Think about it this way, Chrysler’s merger of equals with Daimler-Benz was not leaked before it happened. Great security. Similarly, Ford’s acquisition of Volvo came out of the blue. Maybe there is just too much smoke now for there to be any fire.


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2008 Volvo V70: Next Generation Volvo Wagon

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Volvo has been a major purveyor of station wagons for years. While they have tried to establish other image attributes – like “sporty” – safety and people moving are those attributes that are always on the tip of the tongue. Photos of the upcoming Volvo V70 station wagon have emerged that show an evolutionary, but good looking, “adjustment” in the V70 solution.

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The previous Volvo V70 could be criticized for being a bit small for a people-carrying wagon. Safe, sure, and pretty sexy looking among the European sport wagon genre, but too small and certainly overpriced. Frankly, the XC90 is a much better deal than the V70, but that’s another story. The new V70 solves some of the space problem by moving the car closer to the S80… larger than the S60 sedan.
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Volvo has always positioned the V70 as a stand-alone wagon , not merely a derivative of the S60 or S80 sedans. Volvo is quick to establish the lineage to the all-new range topping S80 sedan. The previous model was a derivative of the S60.
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Volvo adopted the strong haunches seen on the new V70 with the first generation S80. It’s arguably in its best form yet with the new V70. The relatively boring sedan style of the S80 is transformed into a standout stylish wagon. It’s all S80 from the front door forward including door, A-Pillar, windshield, hood, fenders, front fascia, etc.


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Ford Sells Jaguar/Land Rover – When "All The News That's Fit To Print" Ceases To Be News

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I’m sure many of you have seen at least a few of the recent “news” reports that Ford will be selling its Jaguar/Land Rover operations any day now. Potential buyers mentioned (by people who should know MUCH better) have run the gamut from Fiat to Renault to a couple of Asian companies, with a few private equity groups thrown in because the Cerberus-Chrysler deal must be the beginning of a trend. Only a few weeks ago, Automotive News, that renowned and (too) oft-quoted trade weekly, let go with the spectacular revelation that Ford was just about to announce the sale of its Volvo car unit to BMW.
Wherever do they come up with this stuff?
To start with, the sale of Jaguar/Land Rover, or Jaguar alone. Or Land Rover alone or even Volvo would require Ford Motor Company to re-negotiate the conditions of the massive cash loans it took out late last year. Why, you may ask? Put simply, Ford placed its “automotive operations” (as well as a bevy of other assets) up as collateral for the much-need infusion of capital. Admittedly, the company could go to its lenders and revise its loans so the beleaguered automaker could shed one of these units, but said negotiations are rarely quick, difficult to keep quiet and always painful.
But amongst all the chatter about Jag, Land Rover and Volvo’s imminent sale(s), not a word has leaked from the financial community. Strange, isn’t it?
And regarding the acquisition of Volvo by BMW, beyond the obvious issue that Volvo brings no usable asset or technology to the Bavarian automaker, the story is a complete fabrication. It seems the idea got started at Autocar magazine in the UK earlier this year in kind of a “what if” three-liner needed to fill out a column. Within a week or so the story was passing around the European enthusiast publications. The chatter got loud enough for numerous people at BMW (execs and PR types alike) to deny it. This only created a buzz amongst a few key European business and financial rags. The result was the astonishing transformation of filler postulation into NEWS. Not it’s not strange, it is sad. Very, very sad.


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