GENEVA, March 7 Volvo Car Group unveiled its new
XC60 SUV at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday, the latest launch
in a sweeping overhaul of its model line-up under Chinese
ownership that will be key to driving sales and earnings ahead
of a possible listing.
Despite being launched almost a decade ago, the original
XC60 has remained popular among buyers and been the automaker's
best-selling model since 2009.
It accounts for roughly a third of Volvo's sales, leaving
the new model with big shoes to fill as the carmaker looks to
expand its niche in a premium market dominated by larger players
such as Daimler's Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
"The XC60 is in one of the hottest premium segments
globally, so getting the execution and launch right is
imperative for the growth of the brand," said Bill Rinna, senior
manager for North American forecasts at consultancy LMC
"Globally, we expect the new XC60 to sell 175,000 units
annually. Its two main competitors are not standing still
however, as both the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 have or will be getting
updates of their own."
Volvo sold just over 161,000 XC60s last year.
Over the past couple of years, the company has begun
delivering new models developed since its purchase by China's
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. from Ford Motor Co. in
2010, including the larger XC90 SUV and a new 90-series.
Volvo is banking on a joint platform developed under Geely's
ownership for all but its smallest models - key to keeping down
costs and improving flexibility for a small carmaker like Volvo.
Later this year, it is also launching the XC40 compact SUV,
aiming to further capitalise on a strong market for SUVs.
"Now we are really entering into a segment that should
deliver volume," Volvo Car Group Chief Executive Hakan
Samuelsson told reporters.
"Before the end of the year we will have the biggest line-up
of SUVs we've ever had."
After struggling under Ford, sales at one of Sweden's
largest companies by sales and staff have risen sharply, hitting
a record 534,332 cars last year.
Samuelsson has said he expects another record in 2017, the
fourth straight if achieved, on the way to an annual target of
800,000 cars in the medium term.
Volvo has also taken steps toward a possible listing,
raising 5 billion crowns ($557 million) through the sale of
newly issued preference shares, though Samuelsson has said any
flotation is a question for its owner.
The new XC60 will be delivered with a range of powertrains,
including a plug-in hybrid version, with production set to begin
in mid-April at the carmaker's plant in Torslanda, on the
outskirts of Gothenburg in western Sweden.
A semi-autonomous driver assistance system, which handles
steering, acceleration and braking on well-marked roads at
speeds up to 130 kilometres per hour, will be available as an
option, it added.
($1 = 8.9834 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Johannes Hellstrom in
Stockholm and Laurence Frost in Geneva; Editing by Mark Potter)