LOS ANGELES -- Volvo Cars of North America Inc. has tied the introduction of its V-8-powered XC90 sport wagon to a space launch. Volvo executives pronounce the big-money effort a success.
A 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl called the XC90 V8 "powerful enough to send you into space."
The commercial hyped a contest awarding a Virgin Galactic space trip.
The commercial flights are expected to begin in 2007 or 2008.
Volvo created a Web site for the XC90 campaign, www.boldlygo.com. It attracted 1.6 million unique visitors in the weeks after the Super Bowl commercial aired on Feb. 6, says Thomas Andersson, Volvo's executive vice president of marketing.
That Web traffic was eight times higher than for any other Volvo campaign, Andersson says. It included 40,000 requests for information about the XC90 V8.
Volvo hopes to sell 50,000 units of the XC90 annually, of which about 15,000 will be the V-8 version.
The automaker has sold about 1,000 XC90 V8s in advance. Andersson did not estimate how many of those sales resulted from Super Bowl publicity.
Advertisers paid an average of $2.4 million to air a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl.
Volvo did not pay that much, Andersson says, though he would not disclose the amount.
The seat on the Virgin Galactic space flight is valued at $200,000. But Andersson estimates that media attention to Volvo's Super Bowl venture is worth $4 million.
He notes that more than 133,000 people entered to win the 90-minute suborbital flight.
The trip includes several minutes of weightlessness and a view of the earth's curvature. Volvo will name the contest winner at the New York auto show this month.
Lincoln Merrihew, managing director of the market researcher Compete Automotive in Boston, warns that the Volvo promotion could attract "charlatan shoppers." Such Web visitors, he says, are more interested in the space flight than the XC90.
Merrihew says: "If they just go to boldlygo.com and look around, that doesn't necessarily create additional sales for Volvo."
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