In light of Tesla's phenomenal success, many car manufacturers are releasing plug-in electric hybrids and fully-electric cars. Volvo Cars, however, is taking this trend to a whole new level. Founded in 1927, Volvo Cars has announced intentions to build an electric motor into every car in their fleet by 2019 -- just two short years away. This transition will mark the end of an era as over the past century the company has powered their cars solely by the internal combustion engine.
Announcements say "models launched from 2019" will be fully electric. I am guessing that is referring to the 2020 fleet, which will be released in late 2019.
This pledge made history; though Tesla has been a fully electric automaker for a decade, Volvo Cars is now the first major car manufacturer (by sales volume and market share) to commit to building a fully electric fleet. Currently, Volvo does not produce any fully electric vehicles and offers one hybrid: the XC90 Excellence. Alongside it, however, they offer over eight other models relying only on the internal combustion engine. Given the makeup of their current fleet, a transition to an all electric lineup is a huge undertaking.
Speaking bluntly, Volvo needs this; they are putting a lot on the line with this transition because they need a new differentiating factor in the market place. Volvo Cars, a Swedish-based company, was sold to Ford in 1999 by AB Volvo (which survives today, making Volvo semi-trucks etc). Then, Ford sold it to Chinese conglomerate Geely because of lagging sales. All the while, Volvo Cars has lost significant market share in the luxury vehicles sector to BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. Becoming an electric luxury brand with a perhaps marginally more recognizable name than Tesla is their best shot at reclaiming a heavy spot in the international automobile industry.
An interesting development set to happen as a result of the upcoming full electric lineup is the separation and formation of Polestar as an independent performance electric car company. Currently, Volvo Cars makes a performance model called the Polestar, powered by the internal combustion engine and adorned with the Volvo logo. The S60 Polestar -- the sedan model -- sports 362 hp, 0-60mph acceleration in 4.4s, and 347 lb. ft. of torque. With Volvo's move to a fully electric fleet, they are going to spin off Polestar as its own company, an electric performance brand with a new logo.
I am really interested to see how the new electric Polestar will compare with Tesla's lineup in terms of price, power, and performance.
Commentary on Volvo's overall importance in the international car marketplace aside, I am incredibly excited to see 1) how Volvo's pledge to go full-electric by 2019 will go and 2) how their move will prompt action from other car manufacturers both in the luxury segment and in the lower-end segments.
In 2016, Tesla produced about 50,000 cars. Annually, Volvo produces about 500,000 vehicles. So, it will be fascinating to see if Volvo can maintain their sales volume (or maybe even exceed it) with a fully electric fleet -- and to see also how Tesla's production is doing at that point.