Volvo Goes Small. But Is It A Safe Bet To Succeed?

Volvo will unveil a new small car at The North American International Show next week, the C30 coupe. The car is built off the same very good and versatile engineering platform that supports the Volvo S40, Mazda3 and European Ford Focus. For those not in the know, Ford owns Volvo. The hatchback, says Volvo, is targeted at “young urbanites with accelerating careers and intensive, active lifestyles.” This concept car will be followed, say Volvo executives, by a real production version at the Paris Auto Show this September. It’s expected to go on sale in the U.S. in 2007. Volvo, which is the strongest and most profitable of Ford’s European premium brands, says the car will help it to grow to 600,000 sales worldwide.

My guess is that, while available in the U.S., this car will be largely a European success. Volvo’s S40/V40 sales are not exactly lighting the world on fire. And despite the success of MINI, the market in the U.S. for premium priced and positioned small cars, unless it is a roadster like the Pontiac Solstice or Mazda Miata, is just not that strong. MINI, with its iconic design and brand image is very much an exception to this rule in the U.S. And when it comes to Volvo, most of the buying public just isn’t thinking small car. The brand’s upper priced coupe, the C70, has long been in the automotive equivalent of the witness protection program.

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