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Translated text
Volvo is embarking on another global re-launch, but it can't succeed until it really decides on what it stands for. If I was asked to define the biggest hurdle facing Volvo, its not that the company has an image problem, its that it has a problem with its image. Volvo, you might argue, has a brand image that it as fixed and unyielding as the Swedish way of doing things.
As General Motors found with its disastrous ownership of Saab, the Swedes are doggedly determined to do things their own way, convinced that everyone will eventually come around to their point of view. While this makes for a smooth-running society, it makes things difficult when you are trying to sell cars to the rest of the world.
To be fair, when Volvo does occasionally do something unexpected, it doesnt always get the deserved reaction. Twenty years ago, when the company wiped the slate clean and re-launched itself with the 850-series, which was front-drive and powered by five-cylinder engines, it also launched the T5 and T5R high-performance estates. In the UK, where Volvos staid image is hardest to shift, the company even raced 850 estate cars in the British Touring Car Championship.
When the tyre dust cleared, Volvos image as the manufacturer of solid, very safe but unexciting family cars had hardly changed. When the pretty C30 arrived, Volvos UK dealers found it attracted potential buyers who then couldnt bring themselves to sign on the dotted line. It seemed few wanted to explain to their neighbours why they had bought a non-family Volvo, such is the entrenched view of the brand in the UK.
The XC90 was a different issue all together. It offered seven seats, safety and SUV sex appeal in a package that plenty of people could see themselves owning. Parked outside your house, the XC90 spoke for itself. As did the XC60, currently the companys best-selling model.
Last year I volunteered for a market research programme looking into premium automotive brands and I spent some time waffling into a video camera about Volvos great opportunity to change its image once and for all. With the success of the various XC models, surely Volvo could sell itself as the sort of car bought by the sort of outdoor enthusiast who spent good money on high-end skis or a range-topping mountain bike? Aim for the people who have a 250 Gore-Tex jacket, I said.
Regardless of my advice, I was amazed to see the 2014-model XC60 last week in Gothenburg. It had been stripped of its cladding and rugged appeal and is now painted all one colour and wears a large chrome strip on its lower doors. The new XC60 has an urban twist said the designer. It is city sleek. We have taken it out of the forest.
Why? Volvo bosses told me that the change was demanded by customers which made no sense to me as it had become the companys best-seller in the guise of a rugged SUV. 95 percent of drivers never go off-road they said. In reality, perhaps we are seeing the influence of the huge Chinese market, where drivers rarely venture out of their own megacity.
Sadly, Volvo did not get lifted up in the premium brand boom of the last 15 years and currently sells 420,000 cars globally - a stark contrast to Audis 1. 45m or so. Volvo wants to hit 800,000 units shortly after 2020. Theres no reason why not because, for my money, Volvos are premium-level vehicles. But until Volvo really decides who and what it is about, progress will continue to be slow.
Original text

Volvo: can you tell what it is yet?-xc60sm-jpg