All newly introduced Volvos from ’19 to be EV or hybrid
Scott Tarwacki is in the business of selling Volvos, and the news out of Stockholm on Wednesday — that all newly introduced vehicles from model year 2019 and beyond will either be a hybrid or all-electric — is welcome.
“I think this is great for Volvo,” said the general manager at LaFontaine Volvo Cars of Farmington Hills. “They’re a brand with a very loyal customer base. ... so I don’t see any difficulties at all.”
Volvo, which has been owned by the Chinese company Geely since 2010, announced that no new cars introduced for 2019 or later would be powered solely by gasoline or diesel engines. The automaker said between 2019 and 2021, it plans to launch five fully electric cars — three under the Volvo banner, and two more under the company’s Polestar performance brand. Those vehicles will be bolstered by gasoline and diesel plug-in hybrid and mild-hybrid 48-volt options.
Models introduced before 2019 will continue to come with traditional internal-combustion engines. Eventually, however, it’s clear the company sees a near future without them.
“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” said Volvo Chief Executive Officer Hakan Samuelsson. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs.”
Samuelsson, who acknowledged that the company had been skeptical about electrification only two years ago, said things had changed. “Things have moved faster; customer demand is increasing. This is an attractive car people want to have,” he said.
The company’s announcement that internal combustion engines will be phased out comes as interest in electric vehicles appears to be accelerating..
After first reaching California sales lots in December, Chevrolet’s all-electric Bolt is expected to be available in all 50 states in August. Ford’s electric plans for the next five years include $4.5 billion in investments and 13 new electric vehicles being introduced globally, including: the F-150 hybrid, a Mustang hybrid and a Transit Custom plug-in hybrid.
On Monday, Tesla co-founder Elon Musk said that the first of his long-awaited Model 3s — an all-electric sedan — will come off the assembly line Friday. Musk also predicted Tesla’s Fremont, California plant would crank out 100 of the vehicles in August, 1,500 in September and ratchet up to 20,000 in December.
Volvo’s electric vehicle efforts have not received nearly the media attention of Tesla to date, but Wednesday’s announcement was designed to stake a claim in the arena. The company says it plans to sell a million electric cars by 2025.
Some analysts urged caution on Volvo’s announcement it was phasing out the purely internal combustion engine — particularly since the company’s new offerings will feature hybrid power, which marries a gasoline or diesel engine with an electric motor.
“This is a bold move, but it is not as bold as it sounds at first blush, because hybrid vehicles use internal combustion engines for a substantial portion of the time they are in operation,” Jack Nerad, Kelley Blue Book’s executive market analyst, said in a news release. “Making hybrid powertrains available on all Volvos has been one of the company’s keynote strategy for several years now.”
Michelle Krebs, at Autotrader, said Volvo’s move was likely influenced by Geely, with China’s air pollution problems as a factor. Efforts to find replacements for diesel engines in China and Europe may create a welcoming market.
“Can this commitment spell success in the U.S. though?” Krebs asked. “Buyers in the U.S. say they have interest in electric vehicles but largely buy sport utility vehicles with gasoline engines. The major challenge for automakers in the future will be figuring out how to generate consumer demand for the electric and hybrid vehicles required by government regulations.”
From Tarwacki’s point of view, Wednesday’s announcement is another step in Volvo’s evolution. He said the move toward more electric offerings, as well as the upcoming 2018 XC40 SUV, expected to be offered with a hybrid engine, shows that the carmaker “is redefining itself.”
The Associated Press contributed.
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