By Vera Sauchanka, Jessica Lynk
Richard Kirkpatrick, general manager of The Autobarn Volvo of Oak Park, sat down with Chicago News to talk about the evolving Volvo brand.
CN: What makes Volvo stand out from the crowd?
RK: There are a couple of things that come to mind. Probably the first is the elegant Scandinavian design. There is a design statement that the cars make that is very unique. It’s Scandinavian through its combination of textures, finishes and colors. The other thing that comes to mind is the level of luxury and the quality of workmanship. Of course, safety. Volvo is a brand that has always kept people at the forefront of the design. They are all about people and making sure that people are well protected. Volvo’s have always been known for their safety, but now some of the safety features are taking the innovations to a completely new level.
CN: Tell us more about the 2020 vision.
RK: One of the things that is very appealing to us is being a part of what Volvo calls their 2020 vision. This is that by 2020, or thereabouts, they are going to produce a car that nobody can be killed or seriously injured in.
It is something I don’t think the public is aware of. But we are really proud to be a part of a company that has incredibly altruistic goals. The present generation cars have the type of safety equipment that is ultimately going to produce a vehicle of that sort. It generally elicits some sort of wow from a customer because it is a really wonderful idea.
CN: How is it implemented in the current models?
RK: As we are approaching the 2020 vision, some of the features have been standard for a while, such as city safety, which is a low-speed collision avoidance system. The newer generation also have a pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection. The most recent innovation that is on the S90 is a pilot-assist feature. It is an early step towards Volvo’s idea of autonomous driving. It is something that allows for the car to drive itself, when you are in a circumstance when you don’t want to drive. So, Volvo’s vision is that autonomous driving is for perhaps when you are stuck on the Eisenhower Expressway, or when you don’t really feel like driving, and then you can drive the car yourself whenever you feel like it.
Who is a Volvo buyer? What are their main priorities?
RK: There is a diversity in a Volvo buyer over a great age range. The new XC90 has been bringing in young families, people who want the seven passenger vehicle, who may have been previously looking at a Range Rover or BMW.
The buyer is generally well educated. Generally, very well researched. The Scandinavian design is now drawing people to the brand because it is very attractive. They are actually very beautiful, and some might say the interior is a work of art.
CN: Do you think there is anything that the brand is missing right now?
RK: We need to communicate to people who are in the market to consider this brand. We should be able to appeal to somebody who will purchase the brand at a lower price point than some of the other cars. An entry-level Volvo is what is missing.
CN: What is your vision of the future for the Volvo brand in the US market?
RK: The future is really bright for Volvo in the United States, and in the Chicago area as well. Volvo has made a huge commitment to the American market. They see it as a very, very important market, to the extent that they are investing a billion dollars in South Carolina where they are building a manufacturing plant that is going to be producing the 60 line-up vehicles in the next couple of years. They really couldn’t make a bigger commitment than that. There is a time for every brand. We feel really grateful to be a Volvo dealer and aligned with the one of the hottest brands in the car market.