The next-generation Volvo V40 will not be a conventional hatchback, and will instead feature a higher seating position
Volvo is likely to complete its model portfolio by launching a ‘pseudo-SUV’ as an indirect successor to the existing V40 hatchback, the company’s European boss has revealed.
The V40 is the sole remaining model in the Swedish brand’s line-up that is not based on either of its its larger SPA or smaller CMA platforms – and as such, it ought to be the next new Volvo to appear as the firm moves to complete its 40, 60 and 90 line-ups and build on record sales in 2018 of more than 600,000 units.
• Volvo XC40 in-depth review
However, speaking to Auto Express, Lex Kerssemakers, Volvo’s Senior Vice-President for EMEA (which includes Europe, the Middle East and Africa), said that customer trends and the need for electrification would probably rule out a conventional low-slung hatchback replacement for the V40.
“We need to do something more creative,” said Kerssemakers. “That’s why we have decided to not just replace the V40 on a one-to-one basis. There’s two things you can’t exclude in the thinking process towards the next generation of V40. The high seating position is really an issue, and we see a lot of people moving from V40 into XC40.
“I was part of it and ran the project when we started the XC40; that polarisation between high and low was much stronger five years ago. Now you see even the die-hard low seating people moving to the higher seats. I personally think they may move back in a while, because it’s a different driving experience, but it’s a trend.”
He added, “There’s also the fact that you cannot offer a new car any more – now, already – which is not equipped to be fully electrified. And to be fully electrified you need capacity to put the batteries in. If you try to achieve that through width and length then you’re instantly into the C/D segment, where we already have V60, S60 and XC60.
“So then you need to use height, so you’re going into an SUV. And that’s where you need creativity. Can we in some way satisfy the hatchback customers at the same time as satisfying the high ingress-egress people and the battery package? That’s the cocktail we’re playing around with now.”
When asked if this could mean a V40 with a relationship to the XC40 that’s similar to the one BMW has between its ‘crossover X2 and ‘SUV’ X1, Kerssemakers said, “Potentially, yes. You see that we are not the first to realise this, of course; look at what our competition is doing. We’re not geniuses. I don’t want to talk too much about our competitors but the original [Mercedes] A-Class was a genius car when it was launched. It was just 15 years too early. It fulfilled all of the demands that I’ve just talked about. So we need to learn from the past as well as looking to the future.”
There has been speculation that the V40 could look like Volvo’s 40.2 concept, shown alongside the 40.1 that ultimately became the XC40. But Kerssemakers told us, “We’ve given that car to Polestar now, in effect.”
Kerssemakers also ruled out the idea of building a smaller model to sit below the 40 range, insisting that Volvo can achieve its goal of rising from nearly 650,000 sales globally to 800,000 without additional models. “Of course we’ve looked at it [a smaller model],” he said. “But we’ve clearly decided that there’s probably room for another body style alongside the XC40 in the next two to three years, and that’s what we’re exploring. But that’s it then. Then we go into more depth – keeping our powertrains up, keeping the infotainment up to spec, and so forth.
“That means, indirectly, that we are not in the rat race of filling every niche. We have increased our coverage of the market from a product line-up perspective and that’s okay. If you talk about small cars it’d be a different type of car – fully electric, probably. So I can tell you right now that we have no plans to do so. We’ve no plans in the near future to extend our portfolio, other than through electrification [of existing models].”
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