A Resur­gent Swedish Star

ADDING DESI RABI LIT Y TO ITS CORE VAL­UES OF SAFETY AND RELIABI LIT Y, VOLVO HAS EN­JOYED A RE­NAIS­SANCE LIKE NO OTHER IN THE AU­TO­MO­TIVE IN­DUS­TRY.

GQ (Australia) - - GQ CARS -

It must have been early 2012. One of those balmy South Aus­tralian nights that Ade­laide tends to stuff with Coop­ers Red and menus high­light­ing the for­got­ten Aus­tralian city as the coun­try’s most un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated culi­nary scene. Over the course of din­ner GQ lis­tened as a Scan­di­na­vian Volvo exec be­moaned his lot: that despite var­i­ous in­roads and cars that rolled off in­ter­na­tional lines packed with prom­ise, tech and Euro-badged bang for buck, they re­mained best-known as cars of an older set. And there was more – this was a brand as­so­ci­ated with shitty driv­ers, safety and re­li­a­bil­ity, and lit­tle else. It was true. And yet, that was then. Seven or so years is a long time – just ask any fed­eral front­bencher – be­cause to­day Volvo has re-es­tab­lished it­self as a force much-re­moved from what it was. Of late – the past few years, par­tic­u­larly – it has re-emerged from its Gothen­burg chrysalis as a ma­jor player, one that’s grown to re­port­ing 2017 sales of 571,577 ve­hi­cles and an op­er­at­ing profit of $2.4bn – both records for the 91-year-old com­pany – with rev­enue of $32.1bn. Such Coop­ers-rais­ing global stats point to what is an in­cred­i­ble turn­around – one largely driven by de­sire. Be­cause de­sire re­mains the most cov­eted as­set in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try – and where Volvo’s tank was once empty, it now runs full, with a prod­uct line that has quickly al­tered opin­ion and which now sees it spo­ken about, for the first time, in terms of al­lure. Many still point to the in­jec­tion of cash that came in 2010 – when the Chi­nese Geely group bought the famed Swedish com­pany (a na­tional brand that shares a heady do­mes­tic spot­light along­side Acne and Hygge and Noma) for a knocked down price from Ford. But money doesn’t al­ways equate to as­pi­ra­tion and ap­peal – just look at the ways of any Rus­sian oli­garch. This is now a mar­que that or­bits in­tan­gi­ble no­tions of cool. It’s no Equus Bass 770 (se­ri­ously, look that thing up and try not to not to feel loins stir), but Volvo has mounted a un­par­al­leled re­vival jour­ney of late. The key here is mod­els such as the ‘XC90’, ‘XC60’ and this year’s ‘XC40’ – as well as the coolest wagon that’s not an Audi ‘RS4’, the re­cently re­leased ‘V90’. As the man over­see­ing such de­signs, and as such, this im­pres­sive resur­gence, chief de­sign of­fi­cer Thomas In­gen­lath has stated: “Our core brand val­ues will al­ways be [fo­cused on] safety and Scan­di­na­vian de­sign. But now Volvo has a stronger char­ac­ter. It was al­ways on the edge of quirk­i­ness, but we’re striv­ing to cre­ate some­thing de­sir­able.” For In­gen­lath, good-look­ing cars needn’t be fast-look­ing cars. “We con­sciously de­cided to move away from main­stream car de­sign and not add any slashes or lines to the sur­faces that make it look dy­namic. We con­cen­trated on cre­at­ing some­thing with sub­stance.” It’s an ap­proach we can only salute as Volvo con­tin­ues to turn heads in a way it hasn’t since Roger Moore’s The Saint was burn­ing about the ’60s in a ‘P1800’. And it’s why this Swedish mar­que is GQ’S Come­back of the Year.

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