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First Pictures: 2007 Volvo S80

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Worldwide Introduction Set for Geneva
The aging Volvo S80 gets a major update for the 2007MY, and Volvo has released some initial data ahead of its auto show introductions in Geneva (March) and New York (April). Sales in the States don’t begin until the end of 2006. Though AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents won’t have the opportunity to get our hands on the updated S80 for several months, we do have some first impressions to share.
The original S80 established the modern Volvo design motif that has evolved through the lineup from S80 down to the upcoming C30. Elegant and expressive, the Volvo cues have given the cars an at-a-glance identity. The new S80 is clearly a Volvo, but may be too close in execution to its smaller stablemate the S60. Volvos are known as practical, safe, family cars and to the extent they vary from that formula, Volvo risks abandoning its heritage… an all to common occurance these days.
Handsome as the new S80 is, the very fast windshield, fast backlite and swoopy roofline promise more restricted interior roominess and headroom. While very tastefully done, we can’t help but wonder if a more practical execution wouldn’t be better accepted. Of course, the sales of the original S80 have stagnated towards nothingness, so any refresh probably will generate improved sales.


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Volvo C30 Design Concept Very Near Production

Volvo’s star at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit was the C30 Design Concept. There will only be minor changes between the C30 Design Concept and the 2007 C30 that arrives in Volvo showrooms late in 2006. VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) correspondents were on hand for the unveiling of the agressive new small Volvo at Detroit.
A Lifestyle Vehicle for the City
The C30 gives Volvo an entry to compete with the Audi A3 (introduced in 2005 in the USA) and, in Europe, the BMW 1-Series. This small, three-door coupe targets young urbanites, single or couples, but without children. Featuring the floating center console of the S40, the interior is geared for people who rarely have more than one passenger along with them, though there is seating for four. The rear liftgate allows easy access to the cargo area for daily gear, like gym bags and briefcases and laptop computers. The second-row seats fold for those infrequent occasions when C30 owners need to haul something bigger.

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Volvo sees C30 owners as urbanites with active lifestyles. In this case, active does not refer to the outdoor- and adventure-oriented lifestyles usually indicated by the term “active lifestyle.” Volvo instead has developed a vehicle that fits well into an urban active life, for people with hectic lives balancing developing careers and busy social lives. They’re looking for attractive cars with entertaining driving characteristics and terrific stereos, and are not quite so concerned with off-pavement driving, trips to Home Depot and sheets of plywood, car seats, or getting to the mountains in the middle of a blizzard. Given, too, the rising concern with fuel costs and smaller cars allegedly becoming more hip than SUVs, the C30 could be arriving at just the right time.
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Automotive Lease Guide Releases Residual Value Awards

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Automotive Lease Guide is an influential and closely watched barometer of the value of brands and vehicles in the USA. ALG’s data are used by leasing companies to set the values for vehicles two and three years in the future and are critical in determining what lease rates a lessee will pay.
While ALG’s Residual Value Awards are not of the ilk of Motor Trend, Automobile, Car & Driver enthusiast awards, they provide an interesting counterpoint to awards based test track measurements, zero to 60 times and seat of the pants opinions. Here is the text of the ALG release…

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ALG’s annual Residual Value Awards honor those vehicles in each automotive segment predicted to retain the highest percentage of their original price. For the third consecutive year, American Honda Motor Company, Inc. heads the list with the Honda Brand winning the Industry Brand Residual Value Award. Honda also received two individual segment awards: the Odyssey for the Minivan Segment and the Accord for the Midsize Car Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Honda Odyssey and the second win for the Accord.
Acura, a division of American Honda Motor Company, Inc., is the winner of the Near Luxury Car Segment for the TL.
BMW of North America, LLC has once again made a strong showing by winning the Luxury Brand Residual Value Award for the third consecutive year. MINI USA, a division of BMW of North America, has won the Compact Car Segment for the MINI Cooper for the fourth time.
Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. took home the most Residual Value Awards this year by winning six individual segment awards: the Avalon for the Fullsize Car Segment, Tacoma Pick-up for the Compact Truck Segment, Tundra for the Fullsize Truck Segment, RAV4 for the Compact SUV Segment, 4Runner for the Midsize SUV Segment, and the Sequoia for the Fullsize SUV Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Toyota Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia; and the third consecutive win for the 4Runner.
Mercedes-Benz USA LLC is the winner of this year’s Luxury Car Segment award for the CLS Class.
The Sports Car Segment award this year goes to Porsche Cars North America, Inc. for the 911 Carrera.
And last but not least, the CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) award goes to Land Rover North America, Inc. for the Range Rover Sport.
“In an era of negative pricing and overcapacity, Residual Value excellence is increasingly difficult to achieve,” said Raj Sundaram, President of Automotive Lease Guide. “Both the segment and brand winners clearly demonstrate that quality products combined with effective pricing strategies will rise to the top.” Sundaram added that, “While the top rankings did not change, several brands have shown significant improvement over last year, highlighting the importance manufacturers are placing on residual value as a long-term objective.”
This year’s awards are based on 2006 model year vehicles. For the fourth year, ALG has also included awards for the brand with the highest predicted resale value of all industry and luxury vehicles. The awards are derived after careful study of segment competition, historical vehicle performance and
industry trends. Award winners are featured on http://www.alg.com, The Wall Street Journal, Automotive News, and other automotive publications and websites dedicated to bringing the industry’s best performing models into the
public eye.


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Crossover SUVs to Outsell Traditional SUVs in 2006

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Crossover SUVs will outsell Traditional truck-based SUVs beginning in 2006. This forecast comes from George Pipas, Ford’s Manager of Sales Analysis and Reporting in a presentation in Long Beach, CA on December 12, 2005. Refer to the VehicleVoice Blog on December 8 citing a USA Today article on similar observations.

A Few Comments on What a Crossover SUV Is

Pipas’ analysis charts the meteoric rise of Traditional SUVs during the 1990s and the similarly meteoric rise of Crossover SUVs since 1996 when the first crossovers – the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 – were introduced. Of course, defining SUV categories is getting murkier and murkier. VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) have used the “at-a-glance” rule to define SUVs. If you can, at-a-glance, tell that a vehicle is an SUV, then by golly it is an SUV. In this way you are not confused about whether it is car-based or truck-based. (Pipas contends that only about 70% of Crossover SUVs meet this at-a-glance requirement with 30% easily confused as cars, hatchbacks, or wagons.)
Escalade Blog.jpg Traditional SUV 2007 Cadillac Escalade – Category Expected to Decline as a Percentage of Overall SUV Universe
The auto industry thinks differently and often gets caught up in definition problems. They have variously called car-based SUVs “hybrids” (a term since adopted by gasoline-electric ‘hybrid’ powerplants) or “crossovers”. In our research, we have found that folks really have not yet adopted the crossover term and still like to refer to SUVs as SUVs. But enough about splitting hairs about what is a crossover and what is not.


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