From a standing start just a few years ago, the Volvo all-wheel drive feature has gained market traction and a legion of devoted fans that can now enjoy the benefits of secure, all-road traction in nearly every model in the company’s range.
Since its quiet introduction on the Volvo 850 wagon line in the late 1990s, sales of the all-wheel drive feature have steadily grown as a percentage of the increasing sales of Volvo vehicles. By the end of 2004, nearly half of the vehicles sold by Volvo Cars of North America (VCNA) were equipped with the AWD badge. The percentage continues to grow.
Sales of all-wheel drive Volvos have also clearly out-paced the growth in popularity of the feature in the market. According to R. L. Polk & Co.’s Telestat® retail vehicle registration statistical data, just 4.1 per cent of the total industry volume in 1999 was counted as all-wheel drive vehicles. And while that number has more than doubled in five years (to about 9.4 per cent in 2004), Volvo AWD sales have grown at an even greater rate.
In 1999, the S70 sedan and V70 wagon offered AWD as an available option. At that time barely 17 per cent of Volvo cars registered was equipped with AWD. However, since 2001, the numbers have grown dramatically: 19.8 per cent of vehicles registered were AWD that year, leaping to 27.3 per cent of retail registrations in 2002. By the end of 2003, fully 42.6 per cent of new Volvos registered (more than 51,000 units) were delivered with AWD. In 2004, about 50 per cent of Volvo vehicles registered were equipped with AWD as either standard equipment or as an available option.
During that same five year period, Volvo sales in the U.S. grew from 115,401 to a record 139,384 in 2004 (an increase of more than 20 percent).
“All-wheel drive is an important part of the security of ownership that many of our buyers seek in a Volvo,” says Anne Bélec, VCNA President-Elect. “We believe its appeal goes far beyond peace of mind on a snowy road. All-wheel drive gives families the ability to unlock a host of recreation and sporting adventures that are increasingly a part of an active lifestyle. Sure, it’s security, but the appeal of AWD is also safety and performance and adventure.”
More than any other model, the popular Volvo XC70 Cross Country embodies that unique blend of security, safety and adventure, so it is no surprise that the XC70 with standard AWD was a significant factor in the growth of all-wheel drive sales.
The introduction of the award-winning XC90 sport utility vehicle also helped propel the growth of AWD. (The AWD feature is also an option in the all-new V50 T5 wagon, and in the V70 2.5T wagon.) But the appeal of AWD goes beyond rugged, versatile and sophisticated wagons: the entire Volvo sedan line also offers AWD as an available option.
“Security and luxury make perfect sense together,” says Bélec, “so the S80 AWD is an obvious extension of our all-wheel drive strategy. But performance and all-wheel drive are natural together, too, so the S60 R (and V70 R) represents the perfect execution of a vision of driving excitement that is uniquely Volvo.”
“Volvo and all-wheel drive just go together,” says Bélec.
According to the data collected by R. L. Polk, Volvo was fourth among premium brands that offer all-wheel drive on both cars and trucks.*
There is still a regional skew to the popularity of all-wheel drive, Bélec says, but that, too, could be changing. In 2003, the Northeast represented the strongest market for all vehicles that drive all four wheels, where 40 per cent of all vehicles sold were equipped with either all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The Midwest was also strong, at 38 per cent. The western markets tallied about 30 per cent all/four wheel drive, while the South accounted for 16 per cent.
Northern states still purchase the greatest percentage of Volvos with AWD, according to R. L. Polk & Co.’s Telestat retail vehicle registration statistical data for CYE 2003, with Idaho, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, Vermont, Utah, South Dakota and Maine buying the highest percentage of AWD Volvos in 2003. By comparison, Connecticut had the highest percentage of all vehicles sold with all-wheel/four-wheel drive.
“But that doesn’t mean all-wheel drive has a purely winter-climate appeal,” says Bélec. “We see growth in almost every market. When more than 20 per cent of the Volvos sold in Florida, and a third of the Volvos sold in California, have AWD, it's quite obvious the market is changing.”
“That data tells us that buyers see AWD for all its virtues,” Bélec concludes. “Customers may see AWD differently. Some may value it for security, some for performance, and some simply because it gets them to where the fun is. But whatever their view of Volvo AWD, we know its appeal to customers grows more every year.”
Volvo Cars of North America (VCNA), part of the Volvo Car Corporation of Gothenburg, Sweden, provides marketing, sales, parts, service, technology and training support to Volvo automobile retailers in the United States, and oversees Volvo operations in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Volvo has been building cars with safety in mind for over 75 years. The 2005 Volvo Cars model line-up includes: the award-winning new S40 and its wagon counterpart the all-new V50; the award-winning XC90; the sporty S60 sedan – including the award-winning performance sedan – S60 R and the performance wagon version – V70 R; the flagship S80 luxury sedan; versatile V70 wagon and rugged XC70 (Cross Country); and, the C70 convertible.
* R. L. Polk & Co. retail vehicle registration statistical data for CYE 2003 does not include premium manufacturers of trucks, such as Land Rover, which are only available with four-wheel drive/all-wheel drive.