Volvo plans to double sales of C70; redesigned 4-seat drop-top part of upcoming product blitz
RICHARD FEAST | Automotive News
GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Volvo Car Corp. has great expectations for the new-generation C70.
The company believes it can sell 16,000 units of the coupe cabriolet annually. That's double the level of the old C70, which went out of production five months ago.
The four-seater, which goes on sale across Europe in the first quarter of next year starting at about $40,000, has a three-piece retractable hardtop that transforms the coupe into a cabriolet in 30 seconds. The previous C70 came in coupe and soft-top convertible derivatives.
"See, there's plenty of knee room in the back," said then incoming Volvo CEO Fredrik Arp, while seated in the rear of a C70 during the car's press introduction here last month.
Arp took over the CEO post from Hans-Olov Olsson on Oct. 1. That same day Olsson became nonexecutive chairman of Volvo Car and chief marketing officer of Volvo parent Ford Motor Co.
The C70 is not just a new car. The launch represents the start of a new car manufacturer in Sweden.
Contract coachbuilder Pininfarina Sverige AB, which will make the C70 in Uddevalla, Sweden, is 60 percent owned by the Pininfarina group of Turin, Italy. Volvo Car, of Gothenburg, owns 40 percent. This is the first time in Pininfarina's 75-year history that it has made vehicles outside its native Italy. About $334 million was invested in the C70 project.
Volvo says half of C70 output will go to the United States. Germany and the United Kingdom will combine to get about 30 percent.
Volvo sold 4,067 C70s in the United States last year, down 4.8 percent from the year before.
The C70 is based on the C1 global architecture developed by Ford. It is part of Volvo's lower-premium S40/V50 range, which will expand in early 2007 with the addition of the C30 hatchback.
The launches are part of the most intensive new-product offensive in Volvo's history. It includes replacing the S80 upper-medium sedan in June with a model based on an all-new architecture developed by Ford.
The proposal to develop a compact SUV has not yet been approved. But, says Lex Kerssemakers, Volvo senior vice president for brand, business and product strategy, "the decision is very close."
Olsson says that strengthening Volvo's mid-range product lineup is the key to its long-term goal of 600,000 annual sales.
The company sold 456,200 cars last year and is on target to achieve 475,000 this year.
Olsson believes Volvo has further potential for growth in the United States despite the unfavorable euro-dollar exchange rate. He said Volvo has identified three emerging markets for the brand: China, Mexico and Russia.
Volvo and its contractor carmakers have the capacity to produce 550,000 vehicles a year.
"When we get to 550,000, we will have to decide about additional capacity," he said. "We could do a third shift at Torslanda," Sweden.
Initially, the C70 was styled by Volvo chief designer Fedde Talsma as a coupe. Only when the company was happy with the design was it adapted to be a cabriolet, Talsma said.
"The biggest challenge was to create a car that looks good with the top up and down," he said.
Said Patrick Widerstrand, C70 business project director: "We knew what we wanted, but not how to do it. That's why we turned to Pininfarina."
Germany's Webasto AG developed the complex roof-folding mechanism. Pininfarina is responsible for the construction of the complete car at Uddevalla.
The C70 is approximately the same size as the models it replaces. It is available initially with a trio of five-cylinder gasoline engines: a 125-hp engine, a 140-hp engine and a 220-hp turbo version.
A 180-hp turbodiesel five-cylinder engine will be available in 2006.