Volvo sets lofty sales goals with ‘volume’ EX90 flagship EV

Industry

Volvo is setting lofty U.S. sales expectations for its EX90 crossover, the Swedish automaker’s most significant launch since the XC40 in 2017, foreshadowing the brand’s future technology, design and sustainability efforts.

Volvo Car USA CEO Anders Gustafsson said the seven-seater, introduced Wednesday in Sweden, will become the brand’s No. 1 volume EV in the U.S.

“The EX90 is built for the U.S. market with a 100 percent focus on electrification,” Gustafsson told Automotive News. “The volume on this car will be significant in year one for our [retail] partners.”

It is built on an all-electric platform and will be the first EV assembled at Volvo’s 2.3 million-square-foot plant in Ridgeville, S.C., an hour northwest of Charleston. EX90 production will begin in late 2023. The factory is projected to build about 60,000 units in 2024, according to AutoForecast Solutions.

Gustafsson said he anticipates the bulk of EX90 U.S. allocation in the first year to be pre-sold ahead of the model’s launch in early 2024.

The EX90 marks the third battery-electric vehicle in the Volvo lineup after the battery-powered variant of the XC40 crossover and the sporty C40 compact crossover.

The new flagship is at the vanguard of a wave of models that will transform Volvo into an all-electric brand by early 2030.

Volvo declined to disclose pricing for the EX90, saying only it would start at less than $80,000.

The EX90 will partially qualify for the $7,500 federal EV tax credit under the new Inflation Reduction Act, which incentivizes North American vehicle and battery production.

Gustafsson did not disclose the EX90’s battery cell supplier or its sourcing of the critical component.

The EX90 will be sold alongside the mild and plug-in hybrid versions of the XC90 crossover.

With its new EV, Volvo joins a bustling segment in which Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and BMW currently elbow for market share.

According to data from Experian Automotive, the share of EV registrations in the U.S. has surged more than 85 percent in the first nine months of the year.

Gustafsson expects the EX90 to appeal to Volvo loyalists looking for zero-emission transportation.

“I’m convinced that the highest share will come from our current XC90 customers,” he said.

Gustafsson also sees Volvo XC40 and XC60 crossover customers upgrading to larger vehicles as their families grow.

Ernie Norcross, Volvo retail advisory board chairman, said the family hauler hits the sweet spot in the U.S. market.

“As the market moves toward a more friendly BEV market, we’re setting ourselves up for success with this vehicle,” said Norcross, owner of Volvo Cars Memphis in Tennessee.

New Jersey Volvo dealer Matthew Haiken describes the EX90 as an “evolution” of the XC90, which led the large premium crossover segment through the first nine months of the year.

The EX90, one of the few three-row EVs, will be aimed at the mainstream EV market, said Haiken, owner of Prestige Collection, which operates two Volvo stores in East Hanover and Englewood.

“This is the EV for the masses,” he said. “We think we could do great volumes with it.”

But it will be more than a year before Volvo’s newest flagship arrives in U.S. stores.

“We would love to have the car sooner,” Norcross said. “[But] we want to make sure this car is right; we want it to be on the money.”

The long lead time, Gustafsson said, will help build awareness and enthusiasm for the high-tech model, which includes lidar sensors for the first time in a Volvo, along with bidirectional charging capability.

The automaker will take the EX90 on a nationwide road show next year, using the “mobile showroom” to educate dealers and consumers on the new technology.

“To prepare for such a high volume of electric cars in our brand, we need to educate our dealers’ employees,” Gustafsson said.

Gustafsson describes the EX90 as a no-compromise vehicle.

“There is no legacy technology you need to fit into this new platform,” he said.

The EX90 will be available in a twin-motor, all-wheel-drive version at launch. The crossover’s 111-kilowatt-hour battery delivers 496 hp and an EPA-estimated range of up to 300 miles.

The large premium crossover will feature an “invisible shield of safety” that can help reduce accidents that cause serious injuries or death by up to one-fifth, Volvo said. Sensors, including eight cameras, five radars and lidar, are connected to the car’s core computers.

The standard lidar technology on the EX90 could roll out to future models over time.

“That is a very big investment,” Gustafsson said. “But based on our safety DNA, we see this as a new signal for Volvo cars.”

Lidar is a remote sensing method that uses laser light pulses to render precise images of the environment around a vehicle. The technology, from Luminar, can detect pedestrians up to 820 feet away, even at highway speeds. Volvo said lidar and the other sensors will improve the reliability and performance of its assisted driving function, Pilot Assist.

“Lidar takes safety to the next level,” Norcross said, comparing its significance to seat belts.

The EX90 is hardware-ready for bidirectional charging. Paired with smart-charging capabilities, it will allow customers to charge their vehicle when demand from the grid and prices are low and to store energy in the battery for use later.

The EX90 interior eschews hardware knobs and buttons for a digital dashboard anchored by two screens. The infotainment system runs on a 15-inch center display powered by Google’s Android Automotive operating system.

Driving-focused information, such as directions, current speed and range data, appears on a second, smaller screen behind the steering wheel.

The EX90 is hardware-equipped for unsupervised autonomous driving. Volvo said it will make the feature available first to customers in California before rolling it out in other markets.

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