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Old 05-20-2002, 09:02   #1 (permalink)
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Volvo leads the way in Ford safety effort

Volvo leads the way in Ford safety effort; new platforms to get innovations of XC90


By DALE JEWETT
Automotive News

GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Some of the safety technologies in Volvo Car Corp.'s new XC90 sport wagon will migrate to other Ford Motor Co. vehicles.

The XC90 doesn't go on sale until November. But Volvo already is touting its anti-rollover technology and the use of high-strength steel in the body structure. Volvo says the features will make the XC90 safer for passengers and occupants of other vehicles in a crash.

But other Ford brands that want to take advantage of those technologies will need to wait until their products are shared with Volvo products on common platforms, said Stefan Nilson, director of Volvo's Safety Center here.

"We need a new platform for full sharing and to get the higher volumes to defray the costs of some technologies," Nilson said Wednesday, May 15, as Volvo staged a rollover crash test of an XC90 for journalists.

Volvo has been tabbed to be Ford's center of excellence for safety development. Ford hopes to use its Swedish automaker's reputation for industry-leading safety to cast a halo over other Ford brands.

Safety will play a key role in the marketing of the XC90, which Volvo will bill as a sport-utility. Some elements of the XC90's anti-rollover system are scheduled to be introduced on the Ford Explorer and other Ford sport-utilities within two years. The Explorer will use a roll-angle sensor and side-curtain airbags, but those airbags will cover only the first and second rows of seats, even through a third-row seat is an option.

Volvo and Ford worked to develop the system.

But just because a technology is used on the XC90 doesn't mean it will trickle down to other vehicles, Nilson said.

"We used the boron steel for the XC90 because this was needed for large sport-utilities," Nilson said. "But we may not need those things for other vehicles. Front-end crash is more important for smaller vehicles."

Volvo is working on a small-car platform to replace the current 40 series that likely will be shared with other Ford brands. It will take advantage of front-end structural advances made for the XC90. While the XC90 stands 3.5 inches taller than the Volvo XC70 Cross Country, the front-end side rails were designed so they match up with the front bumper of conventional cars.

Nilson said engineers from the safety center already are working at Ford's vehicle development departments in Dearborn, Mich., and engineers from Dearborn have been working in Gothenburg.

Volvo expects to sell about 6,000 units of the XC90 in the United States and Canada by year end. Full-year production of the wagon is expected to be around 50,000 units, with North America getting up to 70 percent of them, a Volvo spokesman said.

Volvo hasn't announced prices, but did say a well-equipped XC90 with leather seats and a sunroof will be priced at just under $40,000. The automaker is targeting the Lexus RX 300, Mercedes-Benz ML320 and BMW X5 as primary competitors.
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