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Picking on Volvo

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I doubt Volvo cares much if I don’t want to buy their cars due to their utterly wretched mileage, but I decided that I should at least tell them why. They don’t provide a mailing address for general feedback, but one can send a message to and hope for the best, I suppose. Here’s what I sent them:

I recently test drove a Volvo V70 and was impressed, as I have been for years with its predecessors, with the solidity and features of this wagon. Alas, although I am smack in the middle of your target demographic–40-something, two kids, dual-career, liberal, etc.–I will not be purchasing a Volvo V70 this year or any year. I am writing this message as a potential customer to share the reasons why this is so.

In short, your fuel economy numbers are an embarrassment. The V70 is currently offered in the US only with the 3.2 liter gas engine, which gets a Hummer-like 16/24 per the new EPA standards. That makes it worse than, or at least on par with, a wide range of poorly engineered American cars and with most minivans, which are significantly larger vehicles in nearly every dimension.

For comparison’s sake, I consulted the Volvo Germany site and looked at the engine options available in that country. I assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that Volvo offers various engine configurations for the V70 in Europe, as do most Europeans automakers for their cars. Sure enough, I could buy a Volvo V70 in Germany and choose from a wide range of engine options, including 2.0, 2.5, and 3.2 l gas versions, as well as 2.0, 2.4, and D5 diesel options. Looking at the performance numbers, I know that a 2.0 l diesel will not go 0-60 as fast as a 3.2 l gas engine (the only variant you sell in the US), but I’m also clear that both engines generate the same torque figures, which means that cruising and climbing are largely identical. The irony here is that when I test drove the V70, the first attribute the salesperson pointed out was its speed. I’m sure that’s appealing to many men who don’t want to surrender their youth to middle-age, but you really need to appeal to consumers not so testosterone poisoned. If I want a fast car, I won’t be buying a Volvo wagon. Duh.

It’s insulting to me as an American consumer to be offered only the least efficient V70 variant for purchase in the United States. I should point out that this is not about the money. My wife and I drive a combined 12,000 miles annually; fuel costs simply are not a major part of our budget, even as gas approaches and passes $4/gallon. This is about consumption, and being responsible members of our species. I doubt I’m the only consumer put off by your mileage figures. We have many friends here and elsewhere in the market for cars such as yours and most like the V70, but find its mileage a major reason to look elsewhere.

I would appreciate a response from Volvo, and would be happy to learn that this is all about to change with the 2009 model year. One can hope.

If you’re hacked about bad mileage, send something similar to the manufacturer of your choice.

Written by Dale

April 21, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Posted in life

Tagged with , , ,

2 Responses

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  1. I have a v70 and just checked my milage. I though I must be making a mistake so I checked it twice more. I’m getting about 14. I drive slowly and don’t gun it at stops signs. Thanks for writing this letter.

    mike wolf

    October 5, 2008 at 8:43 pm

  2. Happy to do it, Mike. I think that companies like Volvo, at least in the US market, are really going to suffer from a serious backlash in the next few years. Their inability to react to the fuel and financial crises by offering sensible cars shows an appalling lack of foresight and planning on their part. For a company and a nation that pride themselves on being just a bit better and more progressive than the rest of the planet, it’s an embarrassment.


    October 6, 2008 at 9:29 am

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