Volvo moving upmarket, nabs Saab product developer

Volvo's new North American-market CEO, John Maloney, says that the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker is looking to move further upmarket while also gaining a larger share overall of the premium car market.

Maloney says that the automaker is expecting a "fairly significant leap" with its next-generation XC90, which is due to hit dealers in a little over two years. The current XC90, which dates back about a decade, is Volvo's third-best seller in the United States, where its sales are up 3 percent. Overall, Volvo's U.S. sales are down about 3 percent, although Maloney estimates that Volvo will finish the year about 10 percent up.

Meanwhile, Maloney revealed that the company's freshest model, its high-volume S60 sedan, is proving popular with conquest buyers - that is, those who are new to the brand. Maloney told Automotive News that 54 percent of S60 buyers came from another brand.

That midsize sedan and the XC60 midsize crossover are part of Volvo's push upmarket.

"We want to be a top-tier luxury brand by 2020," Maloney told the industry journal. "We are well on our road to it and the cars that are driving that change are the two 60s... Those are cars that can go against the best in this business. Those cars are changing our profile."

Expanding its ranks
With Saab confined to the annals of automotive history, Volvo has wasted little time in adding a few of its former rival's executives to its stable. Most recently, Volvo announced that it has hired Mats Fagerhag to head up its alliance office, which seeks out partnerships with suppliers and third parties.

Fagerhag was the lead product developer for Saab and he was instrumental in signing a number of deals with major technology suppliers prior to Saab's dissolution. At Volvo, the automaker says that Fagerhag will again work with suppliers to create new relationships after Volvo split from former parent Ford.