All told, it’s been an exciting last few years at Volvo. The former “orthopedic shoe of the auto industry,” as Jeremy Clarkson liked to put it, has made great strides in moving to a sleek and forward-thinking new design language for the brand, all while maintaining safety and technological advancement as a core focus. This past Thursday at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, we sat down with Alexander Lvovich, Managing Director of Volvo Canada, to get a glimpse into the future of Volvo, and his perspective on the ever-changing world of transportation.
There has been a lot of discussion about the future of mobility in recent years, and in many cases Volvo has been at the forefront of these discussions. At present, what does the future of transportation look like to you and your team?
There are a few different ways that we’re looking at the future of mobility. On one hand, electrification is not just the “topic of the day,” but a big part of our long-term strategy. In 2019, all Volvo models will be at least partly electrified. Aside from this, as you know, we’re continuing to invest significant time and resources into autonomous driving. Right now in Sweden, 100 of our autonomous cars are involved in the Drive Me test program. We also partnered with Autoliv (a leader in automotive safety systems) to launch Zenuity — a joint venture focused on developing and advancing autonomous driving software. All together we have roughly 600 full-time engineers focusing specifically on getting ready for this massive shift in transportation.
We hear you’ve also been looking at a variation of the car sharing model that could be coming to market relatively soon?
Exactly. Our approach is going to be something more along the lines of a subscription service. Much like the way we upgrade our phones every one or two years, users will have the ability to change their vehicles more frequently than they do when using traditional leasing methods.
With all these changes happening within the automotive space, how do you see this impacting the luxury car segment?
So far it’s been really good to us, and we suspect it will stay that way. At present we’ve already pre-sold 50 per cent of our 2018 inventory in Canada, so the demand clearly isn’t slowing down (for now). At the end of the day it makes sense though, as luxury carmakers have the ability to pioneer technology, and to be at the forefront of innovation in the industry.
How have the big tech players — Google, Apple, etc. — impacted things at Volvo?
It’s been interesting to say the least. On our end, we’ve recently stuck a deal with Uber to supply 24,000 cars to its drivers. As autonomous driving becomes more prevalent we expect to see that expand further, and we also have a couple other similarly large-scale partnerships coming down the pipeline that you’ll learn about before long. These tech players are all looking for the same thing. They want partners who can be fast and nimble, partners who can make quick decisions and implement the without getting tied up in lengthy corporate process. Thankfully we’re just the right size, and it’s been working out well for us.
With all of this change, and looking much further down the line, do you think there will always be a place for performance cars? For cars we can still manually drive ourselves?
I think at the end of the day, people still need to be excited about cars. Much as the conversation has tilted towards the mobility and sustainability, there are still a lot of people who are still passionate about driving, so I think there will always be a place for it. As of now, our Polestar-equipped cars are performing incredibly well in the Canadian market, which further speaks to that interest in performance. How it evolves in terms of a combination of performance and technology is where things will really get interesting.
What are you personally driving these days?
I’m in a plug-in XC90. It’s been a great commuter, as I’m able to make it back and forth to the office on battery alone. That said, it still has 400 horsepower under the hood so I’m not short on power when the situation calls for it.
If you had to pick one car, regardless of brand, that you’d like to own?
You’re going to hate me, because my answer is a little boring. After 20 years in the industry, I’m really proud of what we’re building, so I would have to go with our V90. Specifically, and my colleagues will vouch for this, after I hopped out of the V90 R-Design Polestar in Bursting Blue, the first thing I said was that this was hands-down the best car we’ve ever launched. That car, in that specification and colour would be my pick, without question.
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