Volvo Car Group is developing its first all- electric car and broadening its range of plug-in hybrid vehicles, betting that their time has come in the wake of Volkswagen AG’s diesel scandal. The first step will be the introduction of plug-in hybrid versions of the larger 90-series and 60-series cars, the Gothenburg-based manufacturer said in a statement on Thursday. Volvo has a plug-in hybrid version of the new XC90 SUV on the market and will offer the same option for the S90 sedan that is set to be introduced next year. The carmaker said it will offer the fully electric vehicle by 2019.
“We believe that the time has come for electrified cars to cease being a niche technology and enter the mainstream,” Chief Executive Officer Hakan Samuelsson said. Volvo expects 10% of its car sold globally will be electrified by 2020. The Swedish manufacturer is stepping up its focus on electric cars as diesel engines lose their luster after Volkswagen was forced to admit it deliberately circumvented regulations on diesel emissions. The move could also help the Swedish carmaker stand out, as it takes on BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz in an effort to boost annual sales 60% to 800,000 vehicles by 2020. Diesel has come under attack since the scandal broke, with France already saying it plans to end tax breaks that have bolstered demand for the cars.
Volvo, owned by Chinese billionaire Li Shufu’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. since 2010, will extend the plug-in strategy to smaller vehicles, which will be produced on a new platform starting in 2017. Volvo’s electrical-vehicle push is “a start for the future car business,” Henrik Green, head of product strategy and vehicle-line management, told reporters in Gothenburg on Thursday. Plug-in hybrids are “a perfect transition” for the coming years until the first fully electric vehicle is introduced, he said.
“I believe that our first electric car will just be a first electric car — it’s not a one-off, it’s not a show-off car, it’s not to beat someone in particular,” Green said. “That’s where we’re going.”