Volvo Effort to Take on US Market Undermined by Poor Score for XC90

Douglas A. McIntyre

Volvo has had a great deal of trouble with the U.S. market, where its sales have been poor in recent years. Its comeback strategy in the world’s second-largest car market was recently undermined as its XC90 model was named one of Consumer Reports “10 Least Reliable Cars.”

Through September, Volvo U.S. sales have been a tiny 58,632, well behind the leading luxury brands. Sales of its flagship, all-new XC90 have dropped 15.7% to 20,414. It is part of the luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) market, which has generally done well for other manufacturers.

Consumer Reports “Annual Reliability Survey” evaluation of the XC90 reads as follows:

The XC90 is a competitive three-row SUV. Base models use a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, offered with front- or all-wheel drive. Our tested T6, with its 316-hp turbocharged and supercharged version, delivered decent punch and returned 20 mpg overall, but it sounds raspy. A plug-in hybrid with an electric range of about 14 miles is available. All versions use an eight-speed automatic. Handling is commendable, but the ride is stiff though the optional air suspension makes it slightly better. The interior is quiet, plush, and modern, with super-comfortable seats. But audio, phone, and navigation functions are controlled through an unintuitive touch-screen infotainment system that’s frustrating to use. Many electronic safety features are available.

The poor features are all critical to consumer valuation of luxury vehicles.

Volvo is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely. It has tried its hand at innovation. Its latest effort is the Polestar 1 partially electric, motor-driven 600 HP electric coupe. With poor scores in America, such innovations may not make much difference to Volvo sales.

With industry leaders BMW, Mercedes and Toyota Motor Corp.’s (NYSE: TM) Lexus, all of which have much larger sales, Volvo’s chance to make a mark on the U.S. market has been badly battered by the new Consumer Reports evaluation.

The Consumer Report research is based on “how well vehicles have held up and the odds that an owner could be inconvenienced by problems and repairs.” The study included data on over 640,000 vehicles.