Thursday, 2 March 2017

Planned obsolescence

Oh, I love you, Volvo. I knew this was coming - my spies are everywhere - but The Announcement has finally been made.

A new version of my car is about to be shown to a stunned world. Basically an entirely new model, still called the XC60, but otherwise all new. Making my car all old. It will instantly knock a fair bit off whatever value Fiona still has after seven years of ownership. The leaflet popped through my front door yesterday:

There it is, demurely hidden in the shadows of a half-open Scandinavian garage door. (You know it's Scandinavian because of those tasteful wooden strips - stained pine or larch no doubt) And on the Volvo website, a similar picture:

The radiator grille looks vaguely similar to Fiona's, but each headlight sports a horizontal string of white LEDs. I'm thinking there will be a 'family' resemblance to the smaller Volvo V40, seen here:

If so, the new XC60 will be sleeker and sportier than the old version. Here's Fiona, looking as sleek and sporty as she can ever be, without resorting to crazy camera angles:

Oh dear. She looks very Old School. There's style, but it's the style of 2008, when her generation was first launched. It's not the style of 2017.

I suppose one shouldn't complain too much. The 2008 version had a long, nine-year run with only a few mechanical tweaks and cosmetic changes, and despite that it became (and remained) a best-seller for Volvo. But they will want to re-engineer it to look ready for the 2020s. I'm sure they are right to do that, if only to build in all the very latest safety features - and Volvo is always in the vanguard there. Safety is their best selling point. It has been for decades. And safety devices need a proper platform in order to work best. So even if Volvo ignored the important requirement to improve showroom appeal - which they won't - the model would need a new and more appropriate shape, and not just another makeover. Just as they have done in fact with the XC90, their largest chariot, which was successfully relaunched last year. It was inevitable that the XC60, the next size down, would get the same treatment soon afterwards.

So I do understand. But it still makes my car as obsolete as last year's phone. And makes her trade-in value that much less. Not that I ever intended to trade her in, but a poor option now looks even worse. It effectively commits me to keeping Fiona in harness until she dies. And of course meanwhile bearing the cost of all the TLC needed to nurse her along. But I'm sure we'll have a rattling good time, all the same.

I'm now glad that some major component replacements have already been seen to. While the parts are still easily available, I mean. Volvo will have an obligation to maintain an adequate stock of frequently-needed spares for a long time yet, but what about the less-frequently needed parts? Such as certain body panels, or electrical components for her many onboard computers? We'll just have to see.

Yesterday's postal item was in fact an 'invitation' to view the 'global reveal' of the new XC60 at the Geneva Motor Show at 9.45am on 7th March, which can be watched live on the Volvo website. Well, I can do that. Might as well. Apparently one will experience the same view as if sitting in 'a front-row seat, putting you in touching distance of the new, reimagined XC60.' Ah. Wonderful. Presumably lasers will blast a golden tarp off the new car, and ABBA, brought together again after thirty-five years, will serenade Volvo's latest.

'Reimagined', eh? Now that sounds like trendy designer-speak, doesn't it? A good word. I must try to use it often.

Only one thing really offends me. The 'invitation' contains the prominent slogan REDISCOVER THE ART OF DRIVING. What? How dare they insinuate that my driving is currently anything less than artistic. I am at one with my machine, responding instantly and spontaneously to every stimulus. My driving is pure creation. I truly make it up as I go along.


  1. The garage complex where I purchased our last car has stopped selling that marque and they seem to think that I too can now become a Volvo driver!

    I found the new supplier of the old marque and investigated it's replacement. as you so rightly pointed out there is little but age to hold against my current one and they value it so lowly that a huge pile of cash is required to upgrade. That pile of cash could keep the old one as a classic in tip top condition 'til the end of time. As I drove away from the garage complex it quickly struck me that I preferred my old one! I especially dislike the random squiggles of strips of LEDs which they now slap on the front and back and run day and night to annoy my aesthetic sensibilities and I have no love of blackened windows as if hiding a mafia boss or dictator in the rear passenger seats.

    A small bottle of touch up paint to cover minor chips and scratches and I am back on the road. Now I want to see just how long I can keep it...

  2. Coline, this is surely wisdom. And clearly we are of like mind.


  3. I'm not sure if car values are different in the UK than they are in the USA, but it is a generally accepted notion that a new car sheds 25% of its value the moment it leaves the car dealership. I can't say whether the idea has ever been tested by some enterprising individual with deep pockets.

    My advice is to toss the flyer in the bin and enjoy your vintage Volvo. With her new gear box, Fiona is likely set for years of reliable service. Even if she requires additional maintenance on a fairly regular basis going forward, she still is value for money in comparison to a new car with all the bells and whistles but with the milestone of monthly car payments.

  4. I don't think there is a significant difference, Kati. I couldn't agree more with your advice to stay with Fiona.



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