Why Did They Bother?

Today, Driventowrite dons a metaphorical black armband as Volvo’s CrossCountry sales flop is quietly stuffed in a sack and drowned.

Someone thought this was a good idea. Image:indianinfoonline
Someone thought this was a good idea. Image:indianinfoonline

Spare a thought if you will for the unfortunate product planner, tasked with uncovering the next automotive sales sensation, while negotiating the myriad trapdoors luring the unwary and over-ambitious to marketing doom. Falling on their swords this week are those hapless individuals in Gothenburg who are having to make uncomfortable excuses to their superiors following the failure of the Volvo S60 CrossCountry, sales of which have been discontinued in the UK after only one year. It wasn’t the most illogical of ideas I suppose, providing you’re prepared to assume that customers in the market for one of these all-purpose, raised-ride height Estates originated at Subaru and popularised by Audi, Skoda and Volvo might prefer a saloon cut from similar cloth.

Turns out of course they didn’t, but not before Volvo went to the expense of mocking up, production-engineering, assembling and marketing the model, only for 34 of the things to find asylum in Blighty since its introduction. A Volvo spokesperson told Autocar last week that UK sales ambitions for the model  were always expected to be modest and that Volvo UK had sold all of the S60 CrossCountry models it was allocated; a neat piece of PR backspin, which of course we all unreservedly believe to be true.

The V60 Cross Country in its unnatural habitat. Image:wheels.ca
The V60 Cross Country in its unnatural habitat. Image:wheels.ca

What this same Volvo spokesperson didn’t see fit to add is that the model is hardly setting the US sales charts on fire either. North America of course is perhaps the S60’s largest market, with sales of 16,706 last year, but Volvo sold a paltry 287 S60 CrossCountry’s in 2015; its Estate sibling managing a non-stellar 2769 vehicles over the same period. North America has fallen decisively out of love with the wagon format, so even those sales were hard-won. In Europe of course, the opposite is true. European sales for the V60 Estate last year (which incorporates the CrossCountry model) were up on the previous year and have been holding steadily around the mid-20,000’s since 2011, reinforcing the fact that European buyers like their Volvo’s primarily in 5-door form. European S60 sales this year (to March) were by contrast a feeble 988 cars. To put that into perspective, Citroen sold more C5’s over the same period – which for them was good going.

Frankly you really don’t have to be much of a product planner to conclude that the S60 CrossCountry was never likely to garnish anyone’s salad, but I suppose on balance it was worth a try. Nonetheless, it’s probably safe to assume the model will also be quietly discontinued in left-hand-drive markets over the course of the year, which should give Volvo’s PR department a little more time to work on their excuses.

Car Sales Data Source: Left-lane.com

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. [Dis]content Provider.

8 thoughts on “Why Did They Bother?”

  1. SAAB made similar errors. Their hot seller was a hatchback but they decided to introduce sedan models instead of estate models. I think they thought they could attract customers away from BMW et al with the sedan, rather than make the hatch (or estate) something significantly more attractive than the BMW. Sedan models (like my own) are unloved even today compared to hatches. They could have had additional chunks of the market by offering a 7 seat estate like the w124 MB ….. but they didn’t. A shame – things might have been different. Instead they launched the 9 5 and the 9 3 as sedan only – then added an estate model. Sales were only similar with previous models instead of the stellar surge projected and the customers proved less loyal as new customers just bought a more expensive Vauxhall and traditional SAAB customers moved away to the other brands.

  2. I think a point is being missed here. The words “Cross Country” carry a particular horror for anyone who went to a British school in the second half of the last century. They don’t want a reminder of supposedly character-building suffering written large on their comfortable Swedish car.

    And the current generation of S60. It really isn’t very good, is it? Generally, and compared with the fine car which preceded it. Just as well they’ve got Horbury (whom God preserve) back.

    1. The market would seem to agree with you: sales of the current generation S60/V60 have been nowhere near those of the previous S60/V70. My guess is that they just aren’t Volvo-y enough. People expect have a certain expectation of what a Volvo is: bank vault robust, comfortable and with well-considered, pared down design inside and out. By contrast, the styling of the current model is baroque and the ride is far too firm. The current S40/V40 is similarly afflicted. Hopefully the new S90/V90 points the way towards a new-old direction for their smaller cars.

  3. It’s the dull, dumb chant from non-Volvo owners that got us to this stage. Non-Volvo people probably don’t want a Volvo even if it can raise the dead; Volvo owners want what Volvo trades in. Any move out of that territory should be with non-core models aimed at footloose customers.
    I’ll come back to this theme…

  4. Utterly stupid car. The first (and last?) of this ilk was of course the AMC Eagle sedan:

    1. in the early 2000s, Subaru did a short stint of jacking up the Legacy saloon into a “crosscountry” thing, too.

      needless to say, this thing is gross.

  5. Volvo had the XC cars and Audi had all-roaders. This 4×4 thing is a continuation of the 4×4 wave of the 80s: Sierras, Vectras, BXs all had four wheel drive options. In Alpine countries it makes sense.
    Suzuki have a 4×4 Swift which I am sure Simon will confirm is not rare in Helvetia.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s