- Volvo will co-develop a new small front-wheel-drive platform with its Chinese owner Geely.
- The platform will give Volvo new base hardware for its smaller models such as the Volvo V40.
- Parent company Geely will share a new small "C" platform for its relatively low-cost models, while Volvo will use a more sophisticated version for its own cars.
FRANKFURT, Germany — Volvo will co-develop a new small front-wheel-drive platform with its Chinese owner Geely, which has ambitions to be making a million cars annually by 2017-'18.
This project, and Volvo's plan to itself be selling 800,000 cars every year, is designed to ensure the future of a marque that is threateningly undersized, even as the subsidiary of a larger group.
Since its split with Ford three years ago Volvo has developed a new set of buildings blocks for its bigger models call SPA (for Scalable Platform Architecture), but it also needs new base hardware for its smaller models such as the Volkswagen Golf-sized Volvo V40 hatchback.
"We had to find a partner," said Lex Kerssemakers, Volvo senior vice president, product strategy and vehicle-line management, in an interview.
But deals with the usual potential partners came to nothing.
Instead, parent company Geely will share a new small "C" platform for its relatively low-cost models, while Volvo will use a more sophisticated version for its own cars.
"(The platform) will be developed in Gothenberg," said Kerssemakers, "and will use some bits of the SPA architecture."
Volvo will apply some of the same philosophies to this new platform as it has to the SPA, including the use of one engine family that allows the same underhood layout to be used across the entire range of models, a major cost-saving.
The new Drive-e engine family, which was shown at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show, is based around a single modular block to be offered in both three- and four-cylinder formats.
In the case of the SPA models, which range from the next-generation Volvo S60 sedan through to the first-in-the-series XC90 SUV, it will provide a wide variety of outputs by employing turbochargers, superchargers and hybrid technology. It will be available in gas and diesel formats, too.
As an example of its flexibility, Kerssemakers reveals that the next XC90 range will include a version featuring a 300-horsepower turbo four-cylinder engine that generates 295 pound-feet of torque in addition to the 148 lb-ft produced by the hybrid drivetrain's electric motor.
"That will give us V8 torque proportions from four cylinders," he said.
Kerssemakers is confident that Volvo's willingness to trial new technologies in collaboration with its suppliers will also compensate for its lack of scale.
"We have a close cooperation with our suppliers — with 24,000 people," he said. "We are relatively flexible and open."
The company is working with Siemens on hybrid technology, Japan's Melco for infotainment systems and Denso for its advanced new i-Art diesel injectors, which produce exceptional economy.
Edmunds says: Volvo appears to have the building blocks of its future in place, but it will need to turbocharge sales to realize its ambitions.