Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that no premium automaker has won the European Car of the Year award. Premium brands have won the award four times since 1964.
Volvo Car Group probably wouldn't be enjoying its record-breaking renaissance without a badly needed pep talk, a confidence-building face-lift and the arrival of a new owner with a lot of cash and even more guts to take a chance on the once-underachieving brand.
The encouraging words led to a well-executed revamp of the XC60, which propped up Volvo in the lean years after its 2010 sale by Ford Motor Co. to Chinese billionaire Li Shufu's Zhejiang Geely Holding, giving the Swedish automaker enough time to start delivering on its $11 billion promise to become a true alternative to Germany's dominant premium players.
Today, Volvo is on course to have its third straight year of record-breaking global sales. Its first-quarter operating profit margin jumped to 7.5 percent from 0 percent during the same period of 2015, putting it ahead of Mercedes-Benz. In addition, its first post-Ford vehicle, the XC90, has won more than 100 global awards, including 2016 North American Truck of the Year.
The XC90 also finished just 18 points shy of taking home the 2016 European Car of the Year, an honor that has never gone to an SUV nor been awarded to a premium brand since 1983. Volvo also beat Mercedes, Jaguar, Kia and Renault to claim the Brand Design Language category at the Car Design Awards ceremony last month.
"I'm positive about their future," Ian Fletcher, principal analyst at IHS Automotive, said. "This upswing is not going to come to an end anytime soon."
Fletcher is so bullish that he expects IHS to revise upward its sales forecast to more closely match Volvo's target, which is to increase its global volume to 800,000 by as early as 2020. The firm's current prediction has Volvo missing the target by 79,000 units. "I would not be surprised if we increased that forecast in the future," Fletcher said. "I am not doubting them."