Conquests key to Volvo S90 success, Samuelsson says

Semiautonomous features will be standard on the U.S. S90 and will help put the sedan on the shopping list of premium buyers who previously hadn't considered Volvo, executives say. Photo credit: REUTERS

DETROIT -- Volvo will need to lure more than half of the buyers for the new S90 luxury sedan from conquests, an even higher rate than the redesigned XC90, says its CEO.

The S90 made its world debut Monday at the Detroit auto show.

The S90 sedan that replaces the S80 goes on sale in June and will compete against giants such as the BMW 5 series and Mercedes-Benz E class. Volvo expects more than half of sales will be conquests, said Hakan Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo Cars.

Volvo says the conquest rate for the XC90 is running at 50 percent, meaning half of its buyers moved out of a competing crossover. U.S. sales of the XC90 totaled 12,777 in 2015.

Samuelsson said the S90 will compete effectively against the German rivals because it has two key advantages -- new semiautonomous features and a high-performance, four-cylinder engine and a plug-in gasoline hybrid.

But it still faces a U.S. market that is shifting away from most cars, luxury or not, in favor of SUVs and crossovers.

The semiautonomous features will be standard on U.S. S90s and will help put the sedan on the shopping list of premium buyers who previously hadn’t considered Volvo, Samuelsson said.

“If you are interested in an SUV, we were always on the shopping list," he said. "If you want a sedan, maybe we were not on the shopping list with the S80.”

Volvo's semiautonomous Pilot Assist has been improved from the system that debuted on the XC90 and will work at speeds up to 80 mph on the S90, Samuelsson said.

The S90 will not need to follow a vehicle in front of it and will follow road markings. It can also accelerate and come to a complete stop. The XC90's autonomous system only works at speeds up to 30 mph and needs a car in front of the vehicle to work.

The sedan, like all Volvos, features a new family of four-cylinder engines as well as a plug-in hybrid that “delivers the performance you expect,” Samuelsson said.

“We believe in electrification and we believe this is a realistic technology,” and “a bridge to electric vehicles,” he said.

The S90 will be initially available with a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter T6 model that generates 316 hp and the T8 plug-in hybrid that makes a total of 401 hp.

Volvo will eventually offer plug-in hybrids on its entire lineup. A hybrid XC90 crossover went on sale in the United States this month.

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