Volvo was once known for boxy cars that put one virtue above all others - safety. No more, says Hans-Olov Olsson, CEO of Volvo Car.
Volvo has staked out three areas where it will take a leadership role within Ford Motor Co.: Safety, tele-matics and design.
Volvo is part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group of luxury brands along with Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin.
"We have to be distinctive and creative," Olsson said.
Olsson said cars such as the sleek Volvo Safety Concept Car show that Volvo does not need to sacrifice looks for occupant protection.
Volvo is developing innovations such as Volvo on Call.
The system notifies emergency agencies automatically if a Volvo is involved in an accident, telling them the location of the vehicle.
"The challenge is to tackle the lack of international platforms for tele-matics," Olsson said.
Since taking over the top job at Volvo in 2000, Olsson has led a drive to make Volvo a premium brand competitive with Mercedes-Benz and BMW. "When you buy a premium car, you want to know why you paid extra money for it," Olsson said.
Volvo showed off its new XC90 sport wagon at the Automotive News Europe Congress. Olsson said Volvo has sold out the rest of this year's production of the vehicle, which will be available in October in the United States and a month or two later in Europe. It will cost $40,000, he said.
Olsson said Volvo will still take advantage of the resources of Gothenburg, which he called "Little Detroit," including relying on traditional Swedish suppliers such as airbag maker and safety systems supplier Autoliv Inc. Maintaining ties to its Swedish roots will help Volvo preserve the essence of the brand, he said.