Premium brand positioning currently a hurdle for smaller models.
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While the compact SUV market is still on the rise, it’s not a segment that Volvo is considering, the boss of the local office says. "It’s one segment we don't currently participate in – I wouldn't mind one," Volvo Australia managing director Matt Braid admits. A small SUV from the prestige brand would face off against the like of the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and Audi Q3 -- and the smaller SUVs on the way from Audi, but Braid says for the moment Volvo is focusing on what it sees as the main game. "We want to make sure we are doing the right thing on the core models first," he says.
So for now, Volvo fans looking for some compact softroading will have to make do with the V40 Cross Country, essentially a jacked-up version of the V40 five-door hatch.
The focus on core models is also behind Volvo having no plans to develop a smaller or light city car that would go up against the Audi A1 – at least for the time being, although Braid doesn’t rule it out for the future. "In terms of small cars, V40 has filled that niche for us locally. From a sales perspective it's done better than the C30 (that preceded it)," Braid says. "But see what the future brings -- you never know."
"Right now we want to have strong model offerings in the major segments, and we're very comfortable we've got that in place at the moment. After that, we'll look at what opportunities are there, and you might see some plans for future product in other segments. As a premium brand its difficult to go much smaller than V40, as we've seen with our competitors. And with V40, it's in a niche where it's achieving what it needs to achieve, but there's certainly some more opportunity for it."
Braid says for the moment they are looking at the increased profile and sales for the S60 sedan, riding on the wave of a successful debut in V8 Supercars
. "We've performed very well here here in the SUV segment, but we haven't performed as well as we should in the sedan segment," he says. "This year it's changing with the promotion of S60 sedan around racing and other aspects of the performance car angle.
"The S60 hadn't been on the shopping list, and now being able to have it there has been fantastic. The response to the S60 in V8 Supercars has surpassed our expectations. We definitely knew before Clipsal (where Volvo debuted strongly with a second placing in the second race of the event) that we would surprise people, but we couldn't have anticipated the reaction to that result -- the goodwill it's generated, the rise in inquiry levels."