09-13-2011, 05:14 PM
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First Look: Volvo Concept You
Square and boxy? Not
Remember when Volvo had a simple design formula: make them square and boxy? Well, not anymore. The maker has been steadily transforming its visual image as it rolls out a series of new models like the S60 R-Design and, at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the Concept You.
As the name implies, the big Volvo on display at the Frankfurt Messe is a prototype, but one that CEO Stefan Jacoby says is a “glimpse of the future of the Volvo company.”
There’s clearly been a lot going on at Volvo of late. The maker is just celebrating its first year since being sold by Ford Motor Co. to the ambitious Chinese holding company that also produces China’s domestic Geely brand.
With its parent’s support, Jacoby has outlined an aggressive agenda which calls for a huge growth spurt – to 800,000 vehicles annually, which would put it in the big leagues with luxury marques like Lexus, BMW or Audi. And the elegant Concept You underscores Jacoby’s desire to take Volvo up-market in the process.
Volvo will gauging the reaction of showgoers to features like the Concept You's front end.
The show car is a coupe-like fastback that design director Peter Horbury notes has been influenced as much by evolving Chinese tastes as Western trends. A key to meeting the marque’s sales mandate is to dramatically boost sales in what is now the world’s largest automotive market.
And working with Geely, Volvo is already setting up a pair of plants in China, the first of which will go into production by 2013. Two years later, Jacoby tells TheDetroitBureau.com, he expects to have a production version of the Concept You rolling out of that plant, and possibly also at Volvo’s Swedish factories.
So, getting it absolutely right is absolutely essential, and while the Frankfurt show car is “close” to where the ultimate production model will go, Horbury cautions there’s room – and time – for changes. “We want to use this concept to see how people react.”
CEO Stefan Jacoby wants to drive Volvo up-market in his bid to boost sales to 800,000 annually.
The look is decidedly more upbeat than even Volvo’s current flagship, the S80, and it boasts a more distinctive and distinguished front end, as well as a roofline that brings to mind the likes of the latest Mercedes-Benz CLS or Audi A7.
Curiously, former Ford designer Horbury has gone with the same sort of slit-style headlamps that showed up the same day on Ford’s Evos Concept. They emphasize a very high-tech feel rather than the increasingly dated “jewel-like” oversized headlights so many automakers have become wedded to.
The slight bubble to the hood, the dual air intakes under the familiar Volvo grille and the curvaceous yet muscular haunches all lend a sense of dynamism and exclusivity to the Concept You.
Meanwhile, the car is loaded with an array of high-tech features. There’s the requisite LCD screen atop the center stack as well as a Head-Up Display, or HUD, while the gauge cluster is reconfigurable. And that doesn’t mean spending 10 minutes figuring out how to program the switch from one background color to another.
Infrared cameras constantly watch both the driver’s eyes and hands to sense what is likely being looked at or touched. The system can put unnecessary read-outs to sleep or automatically switch to a sports-oriented display when you’re driving hard – even putting your cellphone into do-not-disturb mode.
Intent on taking a lead in green technology, as well as its long-running reputation for safety leadership, Volvo says it expects to trim the weight of the production Concept You by as much as 350 pounds compared to the typical vehicle in its class.
Some key features of the Concept You likely won’t make it into production, notably the rear “suicide doors,” but barring an unexpected thumbs down from show-goers much of what’s on display in Frankfurt will likely reappear at Volvo’s new plant in China in less than four years.