Volvo Sells Out XC90 Online, Aided by Google Cardboard Virtual Reality App

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Volvo Reality Google Cardboard virtual reality VR

With its announcement of a “brand new global marketing strategy” last week, Volvo laid the foundation for a new approach that will highlight digital advertising and even online sales of its vehicles at the expense of traditional channels such as TV advertising and auto shows.

But something more immediately exciting for the Swedish brand (now owned by Zhejiang Geely) might be afoot: Strong reception for the launch of the new Volvo XC90 crossover.

A Volvo executive told brandchannel that “there are good early signs” for the car: the first 1,927 Limited Edition versions of the model were only available for sale online, and they sold out in just 47 hours.[more]

Volvo XC90

The car is critical for the new era of Volvo because it is the “first car 100 percent designed and engineered by Volvo” under Geely ownership, Alain Visser, senior vice president of marketing, sales and customer service at Volvo Cars, told Ad Age.

It is also an attempt to restore the appeal that the XC90 nameplate enjoyed in earlier manifestations when Volvo was independent, and then when it was owned for a few years by Ford.

“We want to extend our safety leadership and set a new standard in terms of Scandinavian design,” Visser said. “The average SUV has 35 to 50 buttons, but [the XC90 has] only eight. For us, premium and luxury are not about showing off and being complicated. We are creating a more subdued, Scandinavian, cocooning experience that is relaxing and not too busy.”

The XC90 was smartly marketed as “a car for all season” while evoking its heritage:

Influenced by the Swedish climate, crafted from the finest materials and built in our home town of Gothenburg, the all-new Volvo XC90 is at home in all conditions. It’s designed around you, with elevated comfort for drivers and passengers alike. It’s also designed with the climate in mind, offering a range of Drive-E powertrains that balance performance and efficiency for superb driveability with lower CO2 emissions.

Clean Scandinavian design that exudes confidence, seamlessly integrated technology for advanced connectivity, intelligent safety features that actively avoid traffic accidents – these are just some of the things that make the all-new XC90 the most luxurious and intuitive Volvo we’ve ever made.

Yet while Volvo seeks to restore some of its heritage in the new vehicle, the brand is taking a decidedly different approach to leveraging marketing resources that remain limited.

The company said that it’s getting predominantly positive reactions to the new strategy that includes eschewing most auto shows in favor of independent events and experiential marketing, and establishing a platform for digital sales that could be one of the industry’s most advanced yet.

“It’s widely understood that a carmaker like Volvo needs to stand out from the others by doing things differently,” said the Volvo executive, Stefan Elfstrom, manager of media relations, to brandchannel.

Case in point: Volvo’s continued investment in the Volvo Ocean Race, one of the best known sail-around-the-world races, which is going on right now.

“It is a perfect match with our brand in the sense that it involves people collaborating with nature,” Elfstrom said. “It also attracts spectators which, to a large degree, fit Volvo Cars’ customer profile.”

Volvo XC90 website sales

In addition to an app for fans of the Ocean Race, Volvo’s digital strategy also includes Volvo Reality, a mobile app with Google Cardboard (making it the first automaker to partner with Google’s virtual reality platform) that lets customers build and “test drive” various configurations of its car models, as you can see in the demo below:

The online sales strategy remains a work in progress as Volvo ensures that dealerships continue to play a vital role by handing over the car purchase to customers and interacting with them on service. For the moment, Volvo isn’t planning to explore partnerships with other online sellers such as Alibaba or eBay, Elfstrom said.

So are customers ready to go to VolvoCars.com and buy an XC90? The quick sellout of the Limited Edition, he maintained, “would seem to indicate that customers are prepared to shop this way for cars.” And for the future.

That’s why Volvo is heading to CES in early January, where the automaker will unveil a “groundbreaking collaboration” (as a press release puts it) that could save lives:

In a groundbreaking collaboration, Volvo Cars, protective gravity sports gear manufacturer POC and Ericsson will present an innovative safety technology connecting drivers and cyclists for the first time ever at the International CES in Las Vegas (6-9 January 2015).

The technology consists of a connected car and helmet prototype that will establish 2-way communication offering proximity alerts to Volvo drivers and cyclists and thereby avoid accidents. No car manufacturer has previously put a stake in the ground to help address the problem by using Connected Safety technology—until now.

It’s all part of the brand’s connected, omnichannel, digital future.

Click here for more coverage from CES 2015.

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