LOS ANGELES -- Volvo's brand image is stuck somewhere between "premium" and "luxury," but the Swedish automaker aims to move further upscale with a fresh design language and a new generation of vehicles powered by more fuel-efficient engines.
New mid-sized and large models will begin arriving in 2014 based on Volvo's lightweight SPA platform.
The vehicles will use Volvo's coming generation of smaller four-cylinder engines. Executives say turbocharging and plug-in hybrids will give the vehicles more power even as the automaker phases out its five- and six-cylinder engines.
Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volvo Car Corp., says that with the price of gasoline and coming fuel economy regulations, engine displacement no longer will be linked to luxury -- at least in Volvo's world.
Rather, he says, high-tech fuel-saving technology that produces neck-snapping performance will be Volvo's recipe.
"The time for counting cylinders is over," Jacoby says.
He says a diesel plug-in hybrid in development will achieve an EPA rating of 123 mpg and have 440 pounds-feet of torque. The electric-only mode will have a range of 30 miles. Drivers will be able to choose when to activate the EV mode. The powertrain will be shown at January's Detroit auto show.
Volvo also is dialing back on electronic control units because Jacoby says they take the driver out of the driving equation. He says Volvo wants more man-machine interface -- other than when active-safety intervention is needed.
Executives say they are repositioning the brand since Volvo's acquisition last year by the Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. They say Volvo's luxury competitors have made technology -- rather than the customer -- the starting point for vehicle development.