Volvo r&d boss vows to turn quality hiccup into a win for new S60

Volvo plans to start mass production of the S60 at its new U.S. plant on August 27. Photo credit: Wolfgang Groeger-Meier

Volvo received a wake-up call after it finished third to last in J.D. Power’s 2018 Initial Quality Study in the U.S.

Volvo r&d boss Henrik Green says the poor score was because of quality issues the Swedish automaker had when it launched its flagship XC90 SUV. Volvo used the experience to tighten procedures during the rollout of its best-selling XC60, which Green said was the most successful launch in the company’s history from a quality perspective.

He told Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc he wants to achieve even better quality results with the debut of the new S60 sedan.

Why was Volvo near the bottom of the current J.D. Power U.S. Initial Quality Study?

A lot was going on last year and it continued into this year. We have to admit that we had a bit of a struggle when we launched the XC90. We had a very good package when it came to attributes in the features and functions, but we had some challenges on the quality side. We worked a lot on those and they should be overcome by now.

How do you measure this?

We have many metrics. One that we measure is the number of repairs after three months of service. We are down to where we should be now with the cars we have produced since the end of last year and the beginning of this year. I think there is some carryover [in the study of the previous quality problems] and that explains where we were in the J.D. Power report.

Are you confident Volvo will climb in next year’s quality study?

Yes. The S60 should be the best car launch in Volvo’s history when it comes to quality. The best one we have so far is the XC60 launched form our plant in Torslanda, Sweden, in 2017. I foresee the S60 beating that. Whether that happens remains to be seen now, but we will know three months after the first models are on the market.

Those S60s will be built at your new U.S. plant near Charleston, South Carolina. This factory won’t start mass production until next month. Is Volvo ready to have this new plant compete with other factories in your network for contracts?

I don’t think it’s in our culture to play plants against one another to win contracts for cars. But I would say there should definitely be some competition when it comes to delivering quality and getting acknowledged for delivering quality. That is healthy.

Volvo r&d boss Henrik Green: "The S60 should be the best car launch in Volvo history when it comes to quality."

Can the S60 put Volvo back among the leaders in the premium midsize sedan segment?

Yes, I think so. I think the main reason is that we have traditionally been a sort of in-between-sized vehicle. The S70 was bigger than a midsize sedan and not as big as a large sedan. That is no longer the case with the S60. It is a true premium midsize sedan. It is a very young package. It’s a driver’s car that is dynamic and sporty as well as being as safe as any Volvo and offering all the comfort and convenience features of our larger cars.

How long has it been since Volvo has had a truly competitive midsize sedan?

I would take it back to the S60 on the P2 platform before we joined Ford. [Ford took control of Volvo in 1999. The first-generation S60 was offered from 2000 until 2009]. This S60 was based on the same platform as the first-generation XC90. We did more than 90,000 units a year globally of that car [the P2-underpinned S60 had peak global sales of 107,000 units in 2002]. That was a long time ago. Based on my personal opinion that was our last successful sedan. Then we made a couple of sedans on the EUCD platform together with Ford, which we are ending with the introduction of the S60. The former S60 was less successful [global sales peaked at 68,000 in 2014]. With the new S60 we are as premium as any of the most premium companies out there, which is something we had never been before.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com -- Follow Douglas A. on Twitter: BolducANE2014

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