At the ex-showroom price of ₹1.42 crore, Swedish luxury car company Volvo Car India introduced XC90 Excellence Lounge, a three-seater SUV in India, in September, before any other international markets. As the name suggests, the design of the limited edition of fifteen cars gives enough room to the passengers to stretch their legs, watch their favourite movies on an in-built 13-inch Ipad and lounge around in peace in this sound insulation equipped car.
The luxury car was launched banking on the success of its predecessor XC 90 T8 Excellence in India. Since its launch in September 2016, at an ex-showroom price of ₹96.65 lakh, Volvo has sold 100 of these in the Indian market. The lounge also retains all the sustainability and safety features of the plug-in hybrid with a capacity to run for up to 40 km in a single battery charge. It is also equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control, Pilot Assist, 360-degree camera and Collision Mitigation Support. Moreover, the XC 90 T8 Excellence Lounge has only 49g/km CO2 emission.
Impressive, yes. But why launch a high-end car when the automobile industry is suffering due to the ongoing economic slump? Volvo Car India Managing Director Charles Frump explains in a question and answers session with LuxeBook.
Why is XC 90 T8 Excellence Lounge launched in India first? This is the first Volvo car to be launched in India before any other market.
The Indian customer knows luxury probably better than anyone else.
They really do. So, it was not such a surprise for me that the country became the number one market for the four-seater Excellence. We got a great response from our dealers for the Lounge concept as well and we were very lucky to be selected for the first launch.
What is unique about this new car? The excellence concept is the epitome of Scandinavian luxury. When you think about excellence, you also think about the environment, and this one has a T8 hybrid engine. The fact that you can drive on a pure electric basis is amazing. I drive a four-seater version of it and I drive 90 per cent on all-electric. Also, at Volvo, safety comes first, and we have broken new grounds in India with the safety features of the Excellence cars. When it was launched, a couple of years ago, it was the first in India to have a radar-based safety technology and auto breaks. The car can sense that something in its way and instead of colliding with another vehicle or human, it stops automatically. We had to extensively work with the government to get all the processes and permissions in place. But that passion comes from our DNA. We can’t imagine that cars in India are less safe than anywhere else in the world. For us, making the safest car is the most important. The XC 90 T8 Excellence Lounge offers a truly luxurious experience of travelling in a reclining chair while putting one’s feet up. No other car manufacturer can deliver this level of comfort. That’s why the industry, media and customers are excited about the car.
What kind of clients are you targeting for the Lounge? This car is more than exclusive. Hence, the customers that we are targeting have seen luxury all over the world and know what the next level is. They will appreciate the nuances of the luxury of this car.
How has Volvo’s design philosophy evolved over the years? One of the things that have remained constant is that we have always been people-centric and a large part of it has been about safety. In our most recent generation of cars, we have embraced our Swedish heritage. The understated elegance of the exteriors of these cars stands the test of time, very much like the Scandinavian furniture. We have now really raised the bar by taking the Scandinavian concept to an ultra-luxury level. We are also rapidly moving towards sustainability.
How is Volvo coping in this sluggish market?
It has been tough for us as well. But we have been fortunate to have grown by 11 per cent in the first half of the year, which was certainly far above the trend. It, nevertheless, is still far below the projection that we would have liked in India. So, we and the dealers are feeling the pinch. I have been in the business for 20 years and seen a lot of slow-downs and this isn’t even in the top five. I see this being turned around even in the next few months. If we get some clarity on GST, we could be in for better than expected business.
What are your expansion plans? Our real expansion happened over the past two years as we doubled the number of showrooms. Last year, we opened a showroom almost every month and are at 25. Earlier, the media would ask me if Volvo had enough network. We worked very hard to bring our dealers to critical mass and I feel very competitive in the market now. The next step is to ensure profitability and quality of our existence showrooms and orders. In a downturn like this, we must trust each other and work closely to ensure that we are all there for the long term. So, I think we need to be a bit more cautious than we have. But we might open a few showrooms this year and next year.
What are your expectations from the Indian government? Everybody loves to criticise, but we need to realise that this is a true, oncein-a lifetime change. Directionally, we are very happy as the government has clearly said that India’s future is electric. We, at Volvo, also maintain that our future is electric. So, we are in alignment. The policies to get EV cars has become smoother and I am glad that they have reacted to some of the concerns of the industry. From a very high-level perspective, I am happy with the strategy. But from a more tactical perspective, I would like to clarity on GST soon. A lot is being discussed reducing GST. If that is going to happen, please make it happen and if not going to happen, tell us that. Either one would be an improvement from where we are at.
What do you think of the Indian luxury market? The size of the luxury market in India is still quite small. In a market that sells five million automobiles, to sell only 40,000 luxury cars is not what I am used to. We are coming to a point where we see an opportunity to not just be seen as a luxury car but a leader in electric cars. But I do I hope that we have stability in the taxation policy so that we can make that transition.
How do you define luxury? I think in the busy world we live in now, quality of time with family, time undistracted by cell phones and technology is luxury.
What kind of boss are you? I am a trusting boss. The culture of Volvo is to give people opportunities, motivate them, guide them and trust them to make a few mistakes and trust them to succeed. That I think is the most important thing for me as a leader. Communication is also important. Every Monday, I meet the entire team to talk about the business, recognise achievements and plan the next week’s agenda. This, I think, aligns the team. I also meet all dealer partners every month and we share thoughts, concerns and plans.