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Auto Show:  2011 Shanghai Auto Show

Volvo Concept Universe - Shanghai Auto Show

April 25, 2011

It is an oh-so-typical automotive model: A population achieves economic success on the back of capitalism, embraces mobility and pursues comfort. And while that was certainly the recipe for the growth of the U.S. middle class in the years following World War II, it could also be said for China in the current century. And with the rise of China’s middle class and auto industry, Volvo announces a concept for a new, large luxury sedan.

According to Volvo President and CEO Stefan Jacoby, Shanghai “is the perfect place for the world premiere of a superb car…tailor made for the most demanding luxury car buyers. This (the Concept Universe) is the next step in the proud history of luxury Volvo sedans.”

If you’re reading this in the U.S., of course, you’re hard-pressed to remember when you last saw Volvo’s S80, the most recent step in that proud history and nearly invisible since its last redesign. With ‘large luxury’ as an obvious void, Volvo’s attempt to refocus – under its new parent, the Chinese automaker, Geely, must be encouraging to both Volvo employees and clientele. Recent introductions of the XC60 SUV and S60 sport sedan have been well received by both media and consumers, suggesting that Volvo that has rediscovered a degree of marketing confidence apparently missing while residing in the Ford Motor matrix.

The Universe Concept is, first and foremost, about putting the needs of driver and passenger uppermost in the design criteria. Volvo intends to be the brand most capable of interpreting the needs of luxury car buyers, which in a global market should keep their interpreters busy. With Europeans creating cars that take driver control, Asian brands seem perfectly willing to cede control to their hired drivers, and Americans consumed with their iPhones and little else, finding harmony between the Autobahn and Information Highway will take careful consideration.

From a design standpoint, the Universe Concept was fully appropriate to the aesthetic consciousness of Volvo’s VP of Design, Peter Horbury. He returns to Volvo after a long stint in various responsibilities at Ford, and suggests a continuation of the organic path first forged with the original S60. Much attention was given to the concept’s interior, with intuitive controls, a convergence of dark and light color schemes and an overall imprint of contemporary luxury. Outside, the look is fully Scandinavian, and – according to Mr. Horbury – “without superficiality or complication.”

While the Universe Concept may portend a new, larger Volvo, there was no indication from the company as to when we might see it – or a derivative – on retail showrooms.

DAVID BOLDT began his automotive career in BMW and Saab showrooms in the 1980s, and he moved to automotive journalism in 1993. David has written for a variety of regional and national publications, and prior to joining AutoTrader, he managed media relations for a Japanese OEM.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Volvo Concept Universe - Shanghai Auto Show - Autotrader