Volvo has brave plans to accelerate its electrification plans, specifically in Australia to go all-electric early, but measuring itself against newcomers to the space is key to its success.
The plan to go all-electric by 2026 will be backed by five new model launches, as the brand endeavours to replace or electrify all of its current nameplates.
Obviously, it will face stiff competition from its traditional rivals, like BMW’s i range or Mercedes-Benz with its EQ division, but Volvo’s Australian managing director, Stephen Connor, said to succeed, the brand must pitch itself against EV newcomers.
“We’ve got to move away from measuring ourselves against these traditional rivals,” he said. “We need to benchmark ourselves against newcomers, more like Tesla, BYD certainly. Why wouldn’t we see these brands as competitors? As a threat? We have to look at both the tech sector as well as the premium sector.”
To that end, Volvo’s current EV strategy is notably in contrast from its premium rivals. The XC40 Recharge fully electric for example, starting from $72,990 before on-road costs is priced more closely a to Tesla Model Y (from $72,300) than the equivalent Mercedes-Benz EQA (from $78,513) or BMW iX1 (from $82,900).
Targeting new-age rivals doesn’t just stop with the likes of Tesla and BYD though, Volvo Australia even considers its sister brand Polestar a rival in Australia.
“Polestar is a competitor,” Mr Connor said. “We don’t discuss our product plans with them – their product strategy is different from ours and vice versa.
“We don’t scrimp on safety for example, and our model range is simplified. There is one fully specified Recharge variant. In fact, we are even heading towards one powertrain, we could take out single [motor] and just sell the twin, C40 pre-sale is around 90 per cent twin motor. Simplicity is where we’re heading.”
In contrast to the C40 or XC40 Recharge which is sold in just one variant with all the equipment included in either single- or dual-motor form, the mechanically related Polestar 2 starts with a much lower entry price (from $63,900 for the base Standard Range Single Motor), but requires a $3400 safety pack to match the Single Motor Volvos on active safety equipment.
Volvo also plans to back its electric car strategy with an infrastructure play, installing fast-charging locations at all of its dealerships.
“These will be free for our customers,” said Mr Connor. “Free coffee, tea, and our plan is for these locations to be 24/7.”
While this might not provide as many locations as are offered by Tesla with its healthy list of ‘destination’ and ‘Supercharger’ locations which are mostly exclusive to Tesla owners, it does help to take the stress off for potential buyers worried about the lack of public charging locations available currently.
Volvo says its fully electric move will also boost its volume, with Mr Connor claiming the brand can climb from its current 12,000 yearly units sold to 20,000 units by 2026.
“By 2025 we predict we’ll be 70 percent electric anyway. We’re confident we’ll have the supply to meet our targets by 2026. If our product was available today [to go electric-only] we’d do it today. Our consumer is ready,” he said.
Volvo’s next fully electric model will be the EX90, which will replace its popular XC90 large SUV. It is due to be revealed next week, for an international launch in 2023. Expect to see it in Australia some time in 2024, although Mr Connor hopes the Australian division’s new accelerated strategy may see our market prioritised for new model launches.