Volvo’s surprise for the Los Angeles show: no cars

November 21, 2018 06:01 CET

Volvo Cars will break with auto show tradition next week in Los Angeles, where it will not have a single car on its stand.

Volvo’s decision comes as a growing number of vehicle manufacturers are skipping auto shows — the Swedish automaker says it won’t attend the 2019 Geneva auto show — or reducing their presence to focus on other kinds of marketing.

One example is that some automakers are launching new cars at a single event that is live streamed to instantly reach a global audience.

Volvo’s plans for the Los Angeles auto show provide yet another twist, according to a top executive, who said the bold move is being made to underlines that the massive disruption the automotive industry is undergoing requires a fresh approach. 

“We are trying to shift our focus from doing what we have done for the last 90 years,” Volvo Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy Marten Levenstam told Automotive News Europe. “Now is the time to really do different things in a different way. This is just one example of that.”

Another example came in September when Volvo suggested that its fully autonomous, fully electric 360c concept car could win a large share of the multi-billion dollar short-haul air travel business.

Levenstam was one of the masterminds behind that proposal and he has also played a key role in Volvo’s unorthodox plans for the Los Angeles show, where the automaker plans to prominently display the following statement: This Is Not A Car.

Levenstam said the statement was inspired by his love of contemporary art, particularly Rene Magritte’s painting, “This is Not a Pipe,” which is a painting of a pipe. He said Volvo decided to use This Is Not A Car “because we think it’s much more now.”

Instead of cars, Volvo will use its display area for interactive demonstrations

Instead of cars, Volvo will use its display area for interactive demonstrations of connectivity services, such as in-car delivery; its vision for autonomous driving and its Care by Volvo vehicle subscription scheme.

The stand will also be used to show Volvo’s plans for car-sharing. Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in a statement that Volvo aims to go beyond “just building and selling cars.”

“We will really provide our customers with the freedom to move in a personal, sustainable and safe way,” the CEO added.

Volvo also plans to use the show to emphasize its strong belief in strategic partnerships. The list of collaborators that will share the stage with the automaker in Los Angeles includes Amazon, Google and chipmaker Nvidia.

Levenstam said that Volvo’s openness to collaboration has helped it connect quickly with new partners.

“It resonates really well with them what type of company we are,” Levenstam said. “We are smaller than most of the OEMs. We are a bit faster. And we are open to thinking in new directions.”

Volvo will use Nvidia’s high-powered Drive AGX Xavier technology in its next-generation cars to help make those models capable of up to Level 4 autonomous driving. Meanwhile, Volvo has teamed up with Amazon to offer customers in-vehicle delivery of packages in the United States.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at

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