“Apart from the XC90, a range of plug-in hybrids are slated for launch in the next three years,” says Richard Snijders, vice-president, APAC, Volvo Cars.
Volvo Cars will soon become the first company to assemble plug-in hybrid cars in India. Following a top-down approach, the XC90 premium SUV will be the first model from Volvo’s portfolio whose plug-in hybrid variant will be assembled locally at the Bengaluru plant by end-2019. “Apart from the XC90, a range of plug-in hybrids are slated for launch in the next three years,” says Richard Snijders, vice-president, APAC, Volvo Cars. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that this announcement places electrification at the core of Volvo’s future business. “It also paves way for the complete phase out of combustion-engine-only models.” Excerpts:
Why are you introducing the XC90 as a plug-in hybrid, which, even if you assemble in India, will be far too expensive to make any difference to the market?
Our brand image is so big that we can use our brand to spread a gospel. Take safety—we have been the pioneers, and set an example, which others in the industry have followed. Similarly, in 2017, we announced that every Volvo we launch from 2019 onwards will have an electric motor, marking the historic end of cars that only have an internal combustion engine and placing electrification at the core of our future business.
So, whenever we take a major step (say, assembling plug-in hybrid cars in India), we, by ourselves, might not make a big impact, but we set an example for other companies. We create awareness; we tell the world that it can be done and there’s no reason why others shouldn’t try something similar.
How much of local content will be in the XC90 plug-in hybrid?
We are currently planning to only ‘assemble’ the car here, using the parts we import. We’ve only just started; it’s more about ‘building’ the car here and offer it at a reduced price to the customer compared to a fully-imported car. A lot of IT work, however, is being done by Indians and Indian companies—a car is not just machinery (the physical parts), a lot of technology (software) goes inside.
After the XC90, which will be the next car Volvo will assemble in India?
We could consider local assembly of the S60 in 2020. We will also also bring in four more plug-in hybrid vehicles next year.
And what about fully electric cars?
We don’t yet have a fully electric car in our portfolio; Polestar is our separately-branded electrified car company. Polestar 1 will be launched globally this year, and Polestar 2 next year. Globally, we plan to go fully electric in the next few years, and the fully electric car will make its entry into the Indian market soon after its global launch.
How do you view plug-in hybrid technology versus battery electric?
Electric is the endgame. Plug-in hybrid is the stepping stone. Because a plug-in hybrid drives more or less like an electric, it can help customers get used to fully electric cars. Once you start driving a plug-in hybrid car, it’s difficult to go back to a combustion-engine car.
Also, customers, globally as well as in India, are becoming aware about the rise in pollution levels and degrading environment. While we believe electrification is the future, till the time India has a supporting infrastructure, plug-in hybrids offer the intermediate solution.
Globally, did the Volkswagen fiasco hasten the transition towards electrics?
The world seriously started looking at electrics when global fuel prices shot up some time ago. The Volkswagen case, I think, contributed to the decline of diesel.