Assistant Managing Editor
SNOQUALMIE, Wash. - The S40 and V40 represent Volvo's bid to become relevant to a new generation.
Volvo Cars of North America Inc. hopes the small sedan and wagon will attract customers who share the educational background and aspirations of current Volvo owners. They will just be younger and less affluent.
The target buyer is 30 - 16 years younger than today's average Volvo owner. He or she (Volvo expects an even split between men and women) will be college educated, highly motivated and seeking a balance between work and leisure. The car's targeted average household income of $75,000 is down from $125,000 for today's owners. Another big difference: Most customers will be single, while 90 percent of today's owners are married and have children.
'We need to expand our appeal beyond the traditional family to grow,' said Mark LaNeve, Volvo vice president of marketing and network, last week at the press introduction here.
A BUYER IN TRANSITION
'We're targeting a Generation X subgroup; not the stereotypical MTV, `get a life' group, but the people who look a lot like today's Volvo owners,' LaNeve said. 'They're hitting a transition. They're getting serious about their career, thinking about getting married or are recently married, and are starting to plan the major earning and family years of their lives.'
Thus the ad tag: 'Somewhere between where you are and where you're going.'
The S40 and V40 go on sale Sept. 1. Volvo expects to sell 30,000 to 35,000 in the first full year on the market. The cars are built by NedCar BV, a joint venture with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in the Netherlands.
Volvo aims for 125,000 to 128,000 total sales in the United States in 1999. Through the first six months of the year, the company sold 57,929 cars. Volvo's goal is to hit 200,000 sales by 2004. Winning those new, younger customers is crucial to reaching these targets.
PRICED FROM $23,475
'Since 30-year-olds are 16 years younger than our current owner body and people buy cars every three or four years, we can reach customers four to five buying cycles earlier than we are now,' said LaNeve.
S40 prices start at $23,475; V40 prices at $24,475. The prices include the $575 destination charge. The least expensive Volvo on the market now is the S70, which starts at $27,960.
The cars are only offered with an automatic transmission. The engine is a four-cylinder, 1.9-liter light-pressure turbo that hits 160 hp at 5,100 rpm.
The S40 and V40 have two front and side airbags and antilock brakes. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, cruise control and power windows.
Options, designed with the 30-year-old target market in mind, include a small personal computer table that mounts on the passenger's seat and CD changer.