Its seems that the world of journalism, much like any profession, is a bit of an old boys club. Stepping out of the elevator in the lobby of the Hotel Nobis after a long day of flights and wandering the streets of Stockholm, it became quite clear that I was one of very few in attendance who seemingly knew no one. Since the evening’s event can best be described as “social”, I began to think that I had an uphill battle ahead of me. Little did I know, it would be quite the opposite.
As we arrived at the restaurant and the group began to take their seats, most sat near those whom they were most friendly. Since I did not have this advantage, I simply headed to an empty spot near the center of an extremely long dinner table. Once seated, I began to scan the room once more for a familiar face, coming up empty handed when a man walked behind me, put his hands on my shoulders, then motioning towards the spot just to my right said, “I guess this is my seat.” That man was the current President and CEO of the Volvo Cars Group Håkan Samuelsson, a man who just the next evening would formally introduce the “Rebirth of Volvo Cars” and more specifically the all-new, all-Volvo XC90.
We hit it off quite well, talking for what would be the entirety of our meal, and touching on an extremely wide range of topics ranging from the future of Volvo and smartphone integration to the current happenings in Ferguson, Missouri. Since it wasn’t appropriate to record our conversation, I’ll do my best to paraphrase some of the key points from our discussion that should prove to add insight into the mindset of those atop the brand.
Volvo Sensus Connect and Food to Car
With the frequency at which technology advances, it is nearly impossible to stay on the cutting edge for a vehicle’s entire life cycle. It makes sense then, that Volvo Connect is a system of applications designed to simplify the driver’s life through creative use of The Cloud and smartphone integration. The feature spoken about most specifically will allow users to do something that Håkan Samuelsson and an overwhelming majority of those who were involved in the beta test are quite fond of- a technology that Volvo is calling Food to Car. “As of now, deliveries are only made between 9am and 5pm, which is when people work” Samuelsson said. Since in Sweden all packages must be signed for, and with nearly 75% of its people shopping online, this can be a bit of an issue. Food to Car will allow for encrypted digital key creation, meaning that food and other purchases made online can be delivered directly to your Volvo, ensuring that there are no more missed packages with the owner being continuously updated through push notifications. Many other apps are in the works, and I will get much more in depth in a seperate article later this week.
His Daily Driver
I have a habit of judging people on what they drive. Regardless of where you are at professionally, you can get a good indication of someone’s personality and priorities based on the color and model of car that they drive. For those who can choose the keys to whatever they want from their respective brand, I feel that it is even more true, and I am happy to report that both Håkan Samuelsson and the Senior Vice President of Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Car Corporation Lex Kerssemakers drive Black S60 Polestars running beta Volvo Connect software. Although they aren’t the Rebel Blue V60s that I would personally spec, it is exactly what we’d like to see as enthusiasts.
The Future is Bright (Blue)
Naturally, after learning what both Samuelsson and Kerssemakers chose as their own, the conversation turned to the Polestar brand. While I was told that there will not be a Cayenne/X5 fighting Polestar specific model, Samuelsson did mention a few things that point to expansion within the Volvo lineup. Rebel Blue was discussed, and I was told that it will be a Polestar-only shade. When he asked me for suggestions on what I think the brand should do for the North American market, I replied “Polestar everything.” He pressed further, and I again responded “yes, everything.” To me BMW, Mercedes and the like sell quite a few ‘lesser’ models due to the aspirational quality of their M and AMG cars, and I was sure to mention this. He became seemingly interested at the idea of bringing performance models to the range under that name, and a quick nod from Kerssemakers made me think that he agreed as well. Samuelsson also told me of his idea to have future Polestar cars delivered with Rebel Blue painted brake calipers, which is one that I can get behind. I was also informed that the current S60 and V60 Polestars were a sort-of litmus test, and due to their extreme popularity, more cars will be offered in 2016.
A Dedicated Sports Car?
So with signs pointing to expansion of the Polestar brand within Volvo, will they make a proper Volvo sports car that goes a step beyond what cars like the 242GT and 855Rs offered, and that the current Polestar offers? The answer I got was maybe. There is thought that a proper sports car could significantly help the brand’s image, but in order for Volvo to do it, the car would need to adhere to the Volvo ethos. While the rebirth of the brand would be the perfect time undertake such a project, it would undoubtedly be a large undertaking and I doubt they have the bandwidth. In the next 18 months, Volvo will be re-launching nearly everything in their line-up, so that in 2017 the XC90 will be their oldest offering meaning that all hands are currently on deck at Volvo. We are still hopeful, and think that Volvo should strike as much as possible while their iron is still hot.
Throughout the remainder of the week, we will be posting more intel and observations from our time in Stockholm including more of Volvo Connect, an interview with Designer Thomas Ingelnath, and an on-location report from the streets of Stockholm and Volvo’s Stockholm showroom.
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