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Volvo goes BIG for Shanghai show

2011-04-19 12:57

MASTER OF THE LUXURY UNIVERSE: Best known for its safety features and estate cars, Volvo would like to challenge Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class and the BMW 7 Series in future – with this...

It's been a trying time for Scandinavian automakers these last few years.

In fact the only Swedish car brand still under independent control (and releasing healthy financial statements) is supercar maker Koenigsegg.

Saab went bust with GM’s financial meltdown in 2008 and after being acquired by Spyker, it seems to be close to bankruptcy again.

Volvo? Well, after being unbundled from Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, the largest of Sweden’s automakers was bought by Chinese brand, Geely.

Under Chinese ownership the 2011 Shanghai auto show has obviously become an event of great importance to Volvo. Accordingly, the company has crafted an outlandish luxury sedan concept to go display when Shanghai's New International Expo centre’s doors open on April 21.

VOLVO PANDERS TO CHINESE TASTES

It's called the Concept Universe and, despite low demand for the company’s S80, Volvo thinks it makes quite a statement about where it's heading - and that's upmarket, into S-Class territory.

Volvo design boss Peter Horbury, obviously, thinks it is superb in execution. "We will compete with the best with our special kind of Scandinavian Design. It is unmatched in performance and technology, but without superficiality or complication."

A design study only (they’ll never be able to homologate that front-end for production), Concept Universe’s raised dome bonnet ridge, radical grille and headlight design (featuring intricate rectangular detailing), coupled with long overhangs, are clues to what Volvo’s next-generation large luxury sedan will look like.

COPY CAT: Is it just us or is there a trace of Jaguar XK/XJ about the rear styling?

From the rear Concept Universe does look somewhat like a Jaguar XK/XJ styling fushion...

The cabin architecture is typically Scandinavian – neat, yet distinctive in terms of design. Featuring tablet-like touchscreens, positioned at the front and rear of a full-length cabin centre console, Concept Universe majors on showcasing the best of contemporary digital interfacing technology.

Configured to accommodate three passengers and a driver only, Concept Universe would appear an interesting venture for company such as Volvo, which is desperately trying to increase sales and retain its premium tag in most global markets.

Is the Concept Universe a pointless showcar? Not quite.

Volvo knows Chinese customers love long-wheel base luxury sedans. With car sales in the People’s Republic showing no sign whatsoever of receding into single-digit growth, positive public reaction to the Concept Universe just might convince Geely to fund a properly engineered S80 replacement.

Volvo's CEO Stefan Jacoby clearly wants to impress his bosses at Geely and the Chinese car-buying public at large. To this end one can understand the purpose of a concept such as the Universe. Jacoby calls it "a sneak preview of what people can expect from our next top-of-the-line sedan."
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