Volvo needs a Land Rover Evoque competitor if it is to do battle in the burgeoning premium SUV market, believes acting Volvo UK boss Nick Connor.
Connor – who has been in the hot seat since previous MD Peter Rask left the business in July 2011 – told us that a car below XC60 would be a fantastic proposition for the brand.
Connor believes the vehicle – which could potentially be called XC30 – would be suitable for buyers downsizing from the firm's XC60 and ageing XC90 vehicles.
"I think the car we are missing is a small SUV – maybe Nissan Qashqai sized," he said.
"It's not in the current plan, but it is something we'd like in an ideal world. It is a sector that is rising. People are downsizing from larger SUVs and you can see how the Evoque has created a premium element to the segment and I think that will continue.
"If buyers don't have a need for seven seats there will be a natural move downwards with something below XC60. And an XC30 or XC40 would be great. The XC products have almost become a brand in themselves.'
Holding the project back, though, is a suitable platform on which to build the car. Currently there isn't one available to Volvo, which would mean sharing with another manufacturer.
"The V40 is critical to Volvo," said Connor. "It is the car the dealer network has been waiting 20 years for. This is the second biggest sector in the UK and is an opportunity to really drive interest in the Volvo brand and get traffic in showrooms."
Connor said sales will be limited this year by supply with only 2-2,500 cars available. However, 2013 is expected to see 12,000 find homes in the UK. He expects to steal sales from BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 buyers, while potentially capturing Honda Civic and Ford Focus buyers from below.
Connor is also hoping the new model will turn around the brand's sales figures which slumped last year to 33,000 units – against a target of 40,000 units.
"We are aiming to sell 36,000 cars this year," said Connor.
"Last year was a disappointing one. The market deteriorated quicker than we anticipated. We had a good start, but it fell away and we didn't respond as aggressively as our competitors. By the middle of the year we decided not to throw endless sums of money at the problem and said to dealers we were going to look at numbers and scale it back and try to retain margin.
"This year we have the new product to change our fortunes and we will be working hard to ensure we do."