November 2014 Sales: Volvo USA Is Tanking Before Dawn Of New XC90

2015 Volvo S60

We’re still a few months away from seeing the first new XC90s at Volvo dealers in North America and many more months away from discovering whether it can rescue the brand’s fortunes on this side of the Atlantic.

Like an overdue baby who doesn’t want to leave his mother’s womb for this cruel, cold, callous world, the XC90 must be planning to dig in its heels (or wheels?) as stevedores attempt to drive it off Swedish docks onto North America-bound ships. Surely Volvo’s newest three-row crossover can’t be looking forward to joining a family of progressively more disappointing vehicles.

U.S. Vehicle Sales Rankings By Model – November 2014 YTD
U.S. Vehicle Sales Rankings By Model – November 2014 YTD
U.S. SUV Sales Rankings By Model – November 2014 YTD

Setting aside the fact that Volvo Canada didn’t sell a single S80 in November 2014 – that’s just plain embarrassing – the U.S. situation last month was especially poor. See, it’s not just the age of the outgoing XC90 that’s been bringing down Volvo sales. The brand’s other models, almost without exception, are selling at a far slower rate this year than last year even as the U.S. auto industry expands at a healthy 5.5% clip.

The C30 and C70 left us before the second XC90 could even get here, and their disappearance resulted in 3539 fewer January-November sales this year than in 2013.

The new V60 attracts an average of 420 buyers per month, but only 314 V60 sales were reported by Volvo in November, the model’s lowest-volume month yet.

S60 sales are down 13% this year but fell 29% to just 1017 units in November. That total marks the lowest-volume S60 month in nearly four years. (398 were sold in December 2010 when the second-generation car was ramping up.)

2016 Volvo XC90

The always-unloved S80? Volume is down 4% to 1674 units this year and fell 10% in November to just 155 sales. No, the S80 was never popular, but Volvo USA sold an average of 11,350 S80s on an annual basis between 2002 and 2008. 2014 will be the sixth consecutive year of U.S. sales decline for the outdated sedan.

The XC70 posted a 4% gain in November and sales are up 4% to 4623 units this year. Likewise, XC60 volume was up 10% in November, but sales are down 5% in 2014 to 17,197 units. The Acura RDX and Audi Q5 sell more than twice as often; the Mercedes-Benz GLK nearly twice as often.

Brand-wide sales tumbled 14% last month as U.S. new vehicle volume rose 5% to 1.3 million units. Volvo earned 0.3% of those sales. In 2004, the XC90’s best year, Volvo’s market share was a completely respectable 0.8%. They sold more than 39,000 XC90s that year and more than 100,000 other vehicles. In other words, the XC90 didn’t carry the brand on its own. 72% of Volvo sales in 2004 were generated by something other than the XC90. Hypothetically, if the S60, S80, V60, XC70, and XC60 could do nothing more than halt their decline in 2015, Volvo would still need to sell approximately 45,000 XC90s in order for the brand to top the 100K mark.

That’s not going to happen, particularly not in 2015, as the XC90 will be late getting started. But even if the XC90 is nothing more than a sign that Volvo has returned to form, even if it’s  nothing more than sufficiently successful to halt Volvo’s decline – Volvo brand sales are down 9% in the U.S. this year – we can hope that its successors will be prepared to restore Volvo to North American health.

This article appeared in full earlier today on The Truth About Cars.

  1. When my dad started driving Volvos, mid 80s, he traded a Buick Estate Wagon (while huge & heavy, it got 1-star from NHTSA) for a Volvo 740 (5-stars from NHTSA). When he died last year, he was on his fifth Volvo–which had no clear advantage over the competition with some serious shortfalls for a $40k+ car. I think I'd have an easy time making the argument that my 2013 Regal is a better car than his 2011 S60, for less money. While I was never very impressed with his Volvos, in the 80s and 90s I was certain of their superior safety–true or not. It's sad that Volvo has gone from a leader in safety and durability to an also ran more deserving of Saab's fate than Saab was.

  2. Mort. Your dad's Buick Estate wagon, along with its Chevy, Olds and Pontiac wagons (B bodies), had the lowest death rate for any cars sold in the U.S. In the 1980s. They were the safest cars on the road beating the Volvos by one point per 100,000 accidents.

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