GABE NELSON

With concept coupe, Volvo waxes philosophical

The XC coupe concept -- the second of three design studies that will show the direction of the redesigned XC90 crossover. Photo credit: GABE NELSON

Volvo has its new U.S. sales and marketing boss in Tony Nicolosi. Now all it needs is a new identity.

Monday in Detroit, the famed Swedish car brand continued its quest for a reinvention with the backing of Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, by unveiling the XC coupe concept -- the second of three design studies that will show the direction of the redesigned XC90 crossover.

The first, called the Concept Coupe, was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The concept unveiled in Detroit was the XC Coupe, showing distinctive design features like a heavy use of matter rubber, which designer Thomas Engenlath said will give Volvo's cars a new, modern functionality.

Alain Visser: Volvo would rather inject some emotion for a group of "individualistic" buyers. Photo credit: GABE NELSON

Volvo's cars have always been functional.

But they were functional to the point of being purely "rationalistic" -- simply practical, safe cars, as Alain Visser, the board member for marketing and sales, suggested. Volvo would rather inject some emotion for a group of "individualistic" buyers, he said.

Volvo executives spoke Monday in the language of cultural critique, not salesmanship. But before Volvo can return to its onetime glory, it seems that the brand needs to figure out a design language that says through imagery what it stands for -- without all the philosophizing.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com

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