Volvo’s U.S. boss hopes drivers “will wake up and start appreciating station wagons again”

Volvo raised more than a few eyebrows in 2014 when it announced the then-new second-generation XC90 would be its oldest model by the end of the decade. Some observed the goal was ambitious; they were immediately eligible for the understatement of the year award. And yet, Volvo is well on its way to making it happen.

The big 90-series Volvos are some of the most notable cars in their respective segments, especially when it comes to design and on-board tech. The brand-new 2018 XC60 unveiled recently offers the same ingredients in a more compact package.

We sat down with Lex Kerssemakers, the head of Volvo’s North American arm, to get insight on what the second-generation XC60 represents for the brand, and what’s next.

Digital Trends: Volvo just updated the entire 90-series lineup – the XC90, the S90, and the two variants of the V90. What lessons were you able to learn from that process and apply to the 60-series cluster?

Lex Kerssemakers: From the start, it was clear that we needed to copy and paste a lot of the technology. The platform is the same, the electrical infrastructure is the same, and the plug-in hybrid T8 technology is the same. Launching a car always comes with hurdles and production issues so we’re past those with the 60, all of the early diseases are out, and that’s a big deal for us.

Volvo XC60
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

The Torslanda, Sweden, factory will initially build the XC60. Are you planning on shifting production to Charleston, South Carolina, once your factory there is operational?

No, the first car we’ll build in the Charleston plant is the next S60. It’s on the same platform as the XC60, and it’s coming out next year. We are planning to assemble a second model there but we don’t know which one yet, it’s too early to tell.

The outgoing XC60 is your current best-seller.  Do you expect the new one will be as well?

I strongly believe that customers in the U.S. will wake up and start appreciating station wagons again.

Given the size of the segment I’d say yes. It’s a very popular segment, especially in the United States. SUVs are taking over that part of the market. That’s also one of the reasons why the XC60 did so well last year. The segment is booming, and it’s still a good car. I have big expectations for the new model.

Is there room for a Polestar-tuned XC60?

Absolutely! Yes, of course!  We bought Polestar for a reason. Because we like the brand, we like what it stands for. But, there will always be a very high level of electrification in those cars because Polestar should reflect what we can do from a performance perspective. So, not just a gasoline engine with a lot of horsepower, it should be a little bit more sophisticated like a four-cylinder turbo with electrification.

How many 60-series models will there be?

We’re doing XC60, S60, and V60. The same as the 90-series cluster.

Can you still make a business case for the V60 in the U.S.?

volvo lex kerssemakers interview news quotes insight xc60 7

I strongly believe that customers in the U.S. will wake up and start appreciating station wagons again. But I’ve been saying this for ten years and it hasn’t happened yet. SUVs are increasing in popularity, but lower-riding models are still more driver-oriented. Buyers are turning away from traditional sedans, so the sports wagon is the perfect alternative.

Will the V60 come in two variants – normal and Cross Country – like the V90?

To be honest it’s too early to say but most likely yes, because that strategy seems to work.

The XC40 will debut before the end of the year, correct?

Production will start before the end of the year, but we won’t have it in the United States before the end of the first quarter of next year. I have to be realistic. And that’s perfectly okay, because we are still in the middle of launching the new XC60, which will arrive in U.S. dealers in September or October.

Is there a market for Volvo’s upcoming 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine in the U.S.?

I’m not in a rush to bring the three-cylinder engine to the U.S. because our four-cylinders are highly fuel-efficient.

Yes, I strongly believe in the future of three-cylinders. In the 40-series and even in the 60-series models. With or without electrification, though most likely with. You can easily get 180 – 190 horsepower out of a decent three-cylinder engine, and the competition has shown in different parts of the world that a triple can run really smoothly.

I’m not in a rush to bring the three to the U.S., though, because our four-cylinder engines are highly fuel-efficient. I’m not going to push it; there is no need to push it, it will come naturally. In Europe they have to push it to meet all the CO2 regulations. In the U.S. we can wait a little bit.

Let’s recap – you’ve renewed the entire 90 cluster, you’re working on replacing the 60 cluster, and 40 cluster’s overhaul is right around the corner. Will we see another Volvo coupe, or a convertible like the C70?

There are no plans yet. We all want one though, so don’t lose hope. But, we have so much to do. Imagine, launching all of these cars. We are still a relatively small company, so renewing everything in a five-year period is massive. We need to focus on our bread-and-butter cars, and – let’s face it – a coupe and a convertible are nice to have, but they’re not bread-and-butter models. They’re very important for the brand, though.

Emerging Tech

Will we ever fly supersonic again? Unraveling the concorde’s complex legacy

In a new book, Last Days of the Concorde, journalist and author Samme Chittum delves into the mindset that inspired engineers to design this marvel, the series of events that led to its fatal crash, and the possibility that commercial SSTs…
Product Review

Volvo’s redesigned 2019 S60 sedan is the best kind of remix

The 2019 Volvo S60 borrows almost everything from other recent Volvo models, but that’s not a problem. From its infotainment system to an available plug-in hybrid powertrain, the S60 takes the best bits from a lineup of great cars.
Product Review

The 2019 Volvo V60 proves it's still cool to drive a station wagon

With the 2019 V60, Volvo argues the station wagon segment isn't as moribund as most other automakers say it is. The company goes as far as arguing we're on the cusp of a wagon revival, and the V60 is poised to lead the charge.
Cars

The supersized BMW X7 is coming with a grille you can park a 2 Series on

BMW will soon expand its lineup with a new range-topping SUV named the X7. The first-ever BMW X7 is shaping up to be the 7 Series of the SUV world in terms of size, price, and image.
Cars

GPS units aren't dead! Our favorite models still do things your phone can't

Love hitting the open road but hate having to rely solely on your phone for getting around? Thankfully, the best in-car GPS systems will allow you to navigate and capitalize on a range of features sans your cellular network. Here are our…
Cars

Watch this driverless Range Rover tackle one of U.K.’s ‘most challenging roads’

Jaguar Land Rover just sent its autonomous Range Rover Sport vehicle onto one of the U.K.'s "most challenging road layouts," and the automaker has posted a video online showing exactly how it fared.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

A public/private autonomous driving institute blooms under the Arizona sun

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced the Institute for Automated Mobility (IAM), partnering government, academic, and private organizations to develop self-driving tech and safety standards. Intel is the first private-sector member.
Cars

Ford imagines a future without traffic lights or stop signs

Ford is using vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) tech to allow cars to pass through intersections without stopping. The experimental "Intersection Priority Management" system basically acts as air traffic control for cars.
Cars

Can't see all of a sudden? Our quick guide on defogging your car windows

Did you suddenly lose exterior visibility while driving because of foggy windows? Don't panic! Here's our quick guide on defogging your car windows in a safe manner while on the go, and a few steps on how to prevent them.
Cars

Carbuying can be exhausting: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.
Cars

Are European-style self-dimming and glare-free headlights coming to the U.S.?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposes to allow adaptive LED headlights on vehicles sold in the U.S. Adaptive LEDs automatically lower headlight intensity when they detect pedestrians or oncoming vehicles.
Cars

Porsche upgrades German factory to build Taycan electric cars

A Porsche factory that currently builds the automaker's popular sports cars will soon begin churning out Taycan electric cars. In preparation, Porsche is upgrading the factory to be high tech and low emissions.
Cars

Vanderhall Carmel adds creature comforts to the basic three-wheeler formula

The Vanderhall Carmel is the fifth three-wheeler from Utah-based Vanderhall Motor Works. It takes the basic design of the Vanderhall Venice and adds a handful of creature comforts, as well as a more powerful engine.