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How many cylinders? Who cares?

Volvo has long been known for core brand values like safety, rather than fripperies like performance but at the Geneva motor show, Volvo chief executive Haakan Samuelsson was particularly dismissive as he responded to questions about the Swedish company's new V60 electric plug-in hybrid: "How many cylinders? Who cares?" It was a clear signal that Volvo sees its future in sticking to its safety conscious heritage, rather than competing with some of the exotica on show at Geneva.

Volvo has long been known for core brand values like safety, rather than fripperies like performance but at the Geneva motor show, Volvo chief executive Haakan Samuelsson was particularly dismissive as he responded to questions about the Swedish company's new V60 electric plug-in hybrid: "How many cylinders? Who cares?" It was a clear signal that Volvo sees its future in sticking to its safety conscious heritage, rather than competing with some of the exotica on show at Geneva. Mr Samuelsson explained: "Such owners want to signal 'I have an expensive car' or 'I have a sporty car'. Volvo should never do either of those. There'll never be a Volvo with a big V8 engine. Attitudes in society have changed. It's a bit like driving without seatbelts. Nowadays, such behaviour is just embarrassing."

Volvo is confident that it knows who its customers are and that they are not interested in nonsense like how many cylinders their car has. Samuelsson says: "Car ownership is a lot about identity and our customers are more interested in a different scene." He also thinks that the non-flashy, environmentally concerned and safety conscious attitude of Volvo customers is now becoming cool, which bodes well for the company's future. Interestingly, he thinks that these attitudes are also becoming cool outside of Volvo's core markets of Europe and North America, in particular, China. It is perhaps unsurprising that Volvo is taking Chinese attitudes to heart as the Swedish car maker is now a subsidiary of Chinese giant, China Zhejiang Geely Holding Group but Samuelsson thinks there is genuine synergy between Volvo and certain Chinese sensibilities.

Family values are incredibly important to Chinese society and with the one child policy still in place, the safety of children is of the utmost concern. Those safety concerns extend to caring for the planet that these children will inherit and are also about sustainable family economics where the cost of motoring is important. In its diesel hybrid model, the V60, Volvo thinks that it has just the model to meet these concerns and is hence bullish about its success. It is not a cheap car, retailing at around £50,000 in the UK but the frugal running costs delivered by the 155mpg fuel consumption and road tax exempt 48g/km of CO2 go some way to making up for this. In Europe, Volvo is struggling against German rivals like BMW and Mercedes and Samuelsson is staking a lot on the bet that the Chinese will be swayed by the safety, greenness and frugality of the V60 coupled with cool Scandinavian design features.

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