W​hat is holding Volvo back in the US?

Their v​alue, luxury, and style should vault them to the top, but what is preventing American's from buying Volvo

4d ago

Volvo's Exposure Problem

W​hen you think of the top luxury sedan and SUV builders, you probably think of BMW, Mercedes, Audi, or maybe even Genesis. People often glance over the automaker that, in my opinion, makes some of the top luxury cars on the market today, Volvo. Much like Tesla, Volvo doesn't manufacture a wide variety of cars, instead choosing to make a few the best they can be. However, unlike Tesla, people forget about the small Swedish automaker when it comes time to get a new car. In 2020, sales of BMW's and Mercedes were each nearly triple the total number of cars Volvo sold. In fact, Volvo ranked second to last among the top 15 automakers for US sales in 2020, beating out only Jaguar. This didn't add up, because Volvo's appear to be one of the best choices if you are considering a luxury car. However, I believe Volvo's issue is not with their cars, but rather people's knowledge of them, their value, their luxury, and their understated style.

V​alue For Money

T​oday's luxury cars are getting more and more expensive. The cheapest 7 seater SUV at both BMW and Mercedes start at about 75k USD. Compare that to Volvo XC90, which starts at a very reasonable 49k and tops out at around 70k. In addition, that top of the line XC90 includes all the creature comforts you could want, and is a plug in hybrid that gets 55mpg. The comparable Mercedes GLS gets a frankly midieval 20mpg for thousands of dollars more. When looking at sedans, the story gets even worse. For less than 50k, you can get the high performance T8 AWD S60. This is Volvo's small sedan, comparable to cars like the BMW 3 series or the Mercedes C class. However, Volvo has given the S60 a hybrid engine making 400hp, which is capable of shooting the S60 to 60 in 4.3 seconds. To get that kind of speed or power from the equivalent Mercedes or BMW you would end up paying at least 10k more.


The M​ercedes S class may be known as the epitome of luxury, but the Volvo S90's interior combines elegant style with comfortable seats and a firm yet forgiving ride. You can sit in ventilated and massaging nappa leather seats, listening to music on your 19 speaker Harmon Kardon stereo system, and relax while the 30k you saved by not getting the S class grows in your retirement account. This level of luxury isn't restricted to the S90 either. In nearly every model, Volvo outperforms the competition on their ability to make the driver feel special for a fraction of the price.

W​here the issues come from

V​olvo's issue isn't with their product, but with who knows about it. When I was researching this article, I was amazed to learn about some of the features that the new Volvo's have. Their cars generally have a great range, look amazing, include everything you would expect from a luxury car, all for less than you would pay anywhere else. There seems to be very little downside to buying one. However, the first thing that comes to people's mind when they think of a luxury car is often German or Japanese. People get caught up in the options that BMW, Mercedes, Audi, or Lexus present, and forget to look towards their peace loving neighbor upstairs.

H​ow to fix this

I​n order to convert people into loyal Volvo customers, Volvo must show that they are more than the better option, but that they are so much better than the competition they are unavoidable. That is what Tesla did. They created the best electric car on the market, and created a loyal fanbase that will defend them no matter how bad their initial quality is. Volvo has the opportunity to do the same with the luxury hybrid market. They caught a lot of bad slack with the 112mph speed cap on their cars, but that's just a blip on what should be an incredibly successful hybrid car campaign. Mercedes appears to be going the full electric route, and BMW's appears to have hired the designer of the Kia Soul for it's recent cars. The luxury hybrid market is ripe for the taking, so it comes down to if Volvo can seize on the opportunity.

L​et me know what you think. What do you think of Volvo's? Would you ever buy one?

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Comments (52)

  • People don't really think of Volvo as a luxury badge. I'm here lusting after a S90, meanwhile.

      4 days ago
  • I work for a Volvo dealership and personally while I think they’re good cars I find that they ride harder then they should, also the acceleration is a little choppy given that we only use the 4cyl engine (turbo t5) (turbo, supercharged t6) (turbo, supercharged, hybrid t8). I love everything else about the cars and haven’t found a reason to not want one otherwise. I’m very snowy conditions you can still have a lot of fun in them and even in the awd sedans I found it hard if not nearly impossible to get the cars stuck.

      4 days ago
  • Boils down to one thing-Chinese ownership

    People in the US have a love/hate relationship with China. We love and frankly can’t live without their products but the media here makes them out to be our enemy. It’s sad really, I believe the globally interconnected economy is what keeps the peace. Personally, I’d love to own a Volvo. Most people don’t know or care where their cars are built or who owns the brand anyway.

      4 days ago
    • I don't think your average joe has any idea where Volvo comes from. Most people who aren't informed probably think they are purely Swedish. So I don't think the Chinese thing has much to do with it.

        4 days ago
    • This. Plus most american Volvos still aren't made in China anyways...

        4 days ago
  • My first car after I graduated college was a used 93 Volvo 850 GLT. I really liked the car, even after I had to put a transmission in at 97K. At 155K the car was exhibiting some signs of expensive repairs so I bought a 2000 GLT SE with 24K miles. This car provided great service, but Ford ruined the brand with cheap plastics, electrical issues and poor quality leather. I kept the car many years with low maintenance cost on the engine and drivetrain, but refused to sink endless money to repair the poor workmanship of electrics and interior. (Car doors didn’t even lock) ..donated the car at around 168K. After I drove a friends 98 740i with over 100K miles, I switched to BMW and never looked back. Quality of materials, performance, cabin noise was way beyond what I called Ford/Volvo although Volvo would tell you at the time it was a “partnership”. Currently I drive a 2002 E39 530i which would have been a direct competitor to my 2000 Volvo GLT SE and the BMW is hands down a better car. When Ford dumped Volvo and was picked up by a Chinese company, I was even less enthused with the brand. About 1.5 years ago, pre-COVID, I went to dinner with some friends and rode in their optioned out XC90. The ride was not impressive, the materials continue to feel cheap, and the cabin was noisy for such an expensive car. The owner was even complaining about the ambient lighting not working correctly on a car that was 6 months old lol. I loved my 850, the S70 was reliable but gutted in quality, and the ride in the XC90 reminded why I left Volvo. Although Volvo may look competitive on paper, I am not convinced that they are producing a product that matches their competitors....yet.

      3 days ago
    • Ya. Unfortunately Volvo hasn’t done tremendously in reliability recently. I’ve been driven in a s90 wagon which drove amazingly, but that’s interesting about the XC90.

        3 days ago
  • Most people with a large automotive budget buy new pickups. The elderly buy Buicks and the average Joe buys compacts or crossovers. Those wealthy snobby types buy Tesla’s, Lexus, BMWs or Mercedes. They need to appeal to the elderly is their best bet.

      4 days ago
    • While the pickup thing may be true in parts of the country, it generally doesn't hold true where there are higher concentrations of wealth like cities. No one buys pick ups in places like Chicago or New York City. They could appeal to the...

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        4 days ago
    • Snobby people aren’t the only people who buy luxury cars

        4 days ago