Volvo purges more Ford influences

Volvo is distancing itself further from its Ford Motor Co. legacy as it prepares to launch a new range of in-house engines and a modular platform.

The first engine will be a four-cylinder unit that will debut before the end of this year — Volvo wouldn’t say if it is gasoline or diesel — while the all-new XC90 premium large SUV that arrives late next year will be the first to use Volvo’s scalable platform architecture (SPA).

Following the SUV, Volvo will use SPA to underpin the V70 and S80, which be called the V90 and S90 when they arrive in the near term, r&d boss Peter Mertens told journalists during a briefing at Volvo’s global headquarters here this week. He also said a coupe was possible off the same platform.

Ford sold Volvo to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, the parent of Chinese carmaker Geely Automobile, in 2010 for $1.8 billion.

Even after SPA is online, the Swedish automaker still will use a Ford platform for the first-generation V40, which debuted last year. The second-generation V40 will use a new modular compact platform Volvo said this week it will develop with Geely at a joint r&d center in Gothenburg. The platform also will underpin a future Geely compact model, Volvo said.

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson told journalists that SPA was a necessity that would allow the relatively small company to compete against the much larger premium competition.

“Modularity means independence, but also the opposite. If you are independent you have to try to find economy of scale another way,” he said.

Samuelsson reconfirmed Volvo goal to nearly double sales to 800,000 cars by 2020, with 200,000 of those coming from China. Last year Volvo sold 422,000 vehicles, down 6 percent from 2011.

Volvo’s new engines will have a maximum of four cylinders. “The time of counting cylinders is over,” Mertens said. The modularity of the engines mean that gasoline and diesel units will share 30 percent to 40 percent of parts, with the cubic capacity of each cylinder fixed at “just under” 500cc.

Mertens said a three-cylinder gasoline unit is likely, but ruled out a developing a three-cylinder diesel. “We’ll let someone else take the lead on that,” he told Automotive News Europe.

All the engines will be turbocharged, with power ranging from 120 hp to 230 hp for the diesels, and 140 hp to 280 hp for the petrol powerplants.

The units will be 15 percent to 30 percent more efficient than Volvo’s current engines, Mertens said. The company declined to say which cars would use the engines first.

More power will be available for future Volvo by using electrification, with 400 hp possible from a rear-mounted plug-in hybrid powerpack, which is roughly equivalent to a V-8 unit, Mertens said.

Samuelsson added that it was important for Volvo to be self-confident and predict the future. “In the really luxury segment in China you have to ask: What cars will they be attracted to in five year’s time? What cars are ministers likely to drive: a big V-8 or electric hybrids?” he said.

The new modular engines and platforms will save Volvo a lot of money, Mertens said. “The savings are significant in material costs, engineering costs, installation investment cost and also validation in that you don’t have to do everything for each vehicle,” he said without providing any figures.

He also said there will be weight savings of 150kg or more. The engines are made of aluminum while the new SPA chassis will use more lightweight boron steel.