Why is Volvo Not Popular?

Volvo has a reputation for producing safe but bland cars that are not as glamorous as its European rivals Mercedes and BMW. These car giants have comfortably outsold Volvos year after year. There are many reasons for the none popularity of Volvos outside Sweden. Some of them are self-caused.

In America, Volvo is ranked 17th on the list of most popular car makers. It is ranked behind Subaru, Ford, Chevrolet, and General Motors. It sold 674,708 cars globally in 2018, compared to the number of Toyotas (8.9 million), or BMW (2.125 million), or Mercedes Benz (2.3 million) sold in the same year.

The above statistic paints a perfect picture of how far behind Volvo is compared to popular car manufacturers. Here, we look at the factors that make Volvo not popular, despite being in existence for almost a century.

Reasons Volvo Is Not Popular


Volvo is a car known for safety and not much else. They indeed innovated a lot of safety features that many other car manufacturers still incorporate in their vehicles. Apart from their priority on safety, people don’t see any other standout feature from Volvo.

Many cars makers offer the same feature as Volvos and a lot more. A car from BMW, for instance, that offers luxury, superior engine performance, and safety features that rival Volvo will automatically be more popular than the Volvo. This is more pertinent when the difference in price in the two cars is just a few thousand dollars. 

Early Volvos also have the reputation of being, for want of a better word, ugly. They looked like they were carved with a chainsaw instead of sculpted by an artist. Nobody wants to be caught driving an ugly car, and this affects the popularity of the Volvo.

It has to be said that Volvo cars have been more aesthetically pleasing in recent years. Still, the reputation for ugly cars has stuck.


Let’s consider the prices of the 2022 BMW X5 and the 2021 Volvo XC90, two vehicles in the same category. The X5 cost $62,298 compared to the XC990’s $58,045. For an SUV that isn’t one of the biggest movers in its class, doesn’t have the engine performance as the X5 or the same brand presence, its price is costly.

If it will cost a few extra thousand dollars to get one of the premium brands, why settle for a Volvo? We aren’t saying Volvo cars are duds, but they are performing from the point of disadvantage against established brands. One of the ways to compete is not to price out potential customers.

An excellent example to consider is the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Its price is one of the cheapest in its category, no wonder it is the bestselling car in its class. Following this strategy can help Volvo sell cars and gain popularity, even lowering the quality or luxury of the vehicle.

While Volvo is a luxury brand in its own right, for them to compete with established brands, they might need to review their current prices.


Volvo is supposed to produce luxury cars, but in reality, their vehicles don’t ooze class like a Mercedes does. Its exterior design isn’t as eye-pleasing, or its interior is also not as awe-inspiring. As said earlier, for a long time, Volvo’s priority was on producing safe cars. Other things weren’t important.

Some of the things that suffered while they were making these cars are the design and interior of the vehicle. The result was that Volvo became a niche car for those who didn’t mind the beauty or otherwise as long as the car had the safety record of the Volvo.

Most of these niche buyers are in the minority; the more significant percentage want a car that can do other things than keep them safe. Volvo has improved its designs in recent years, but it’s still not entirely up the with the best yet.


Volvo was originally Swedish, but there have been ownership changes that have changed the company’s projection. Owned initially for decades by SKF, SKF sold Volvo to Ford Motor Company in 1999. Then in 2010, Chinese manufacturer Geely Holding Group made Volvo Cars one of their subsidiaries.

These changes in ownership and management had contributed to changes in corporate directions and public perception, especially when they were under Ford Motor Company’s ownership, which struggled to secure its future due to the global financial recession. 

Volvo failed to make any headway, and Ford had to divest its investment in Volvo, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover and reduce its shares in Mazda. Geely Holding Group didn’t have a reputation for being car makers. The takeover initially caused some fears from consumers, further lowering their popularity.

They also decided to change directions by returning to Volvo’s safety-first ethos by declaring that they want to eradicate death and severe injury in their cars by 2020. They are also focusing on the environment by announcing that half of their car sales by 2025 will be fully electric cars.

Volvo’s numbers have been better in recent years. Still, the changes in management and ownership have been a factor in the unpopularity of Volvo.

Target Market

Another reason that hinders Volvo’s popularity is its target market. Owners of the formerly boxy Volvo usually fell into the category of middle-aged, professorial types who valued safety over all else.

Or the second car used to ferry the children to and from school or go grocery shopping. There is a new crop of young people who grew seeing those and now that they want to own their first cars look for something else. The target market continues to shrink as those middle-aged customers get older.

There is also the perception that even the new edgier Volvo cars do not have the heavy marketing of other European powerhouses like Mercedes, BMW, or even Audi. 

However, it has to be noted that Volvo’s recent offerings have received rave reviews from critics and owners. So things might be looking up for Volvo.

Volvo Reliability 

We will be using the Volvo XC90 as a point of reference. Over the short term (0-3 years), XC90 competes favorably with most cars in its class.  It is after prolonged usage that problems start cropping up. One test carried out on the diesel and hybrid engines revealed issues with the Pilot Assist feature. Another trial showed that one of the battery cells in the hybrid engine broke down at about 6,600 miles. The bad battery led to damage to the hybrid engine.

Apart from these issues, there was no other serious issue to report. Surveys say Volvo was brought in for repairs 0.6 times per year, and just 6% of those repairs were termed severe. Other brands stood at 11%

Generally, the reliability scores for Volvos are average after 3-8 years of use.

Volvo Repair and Maintenance Costs

Compared to other luxury brands, the maintenance costs for Volvos are one of the most affordable to maintain. They are cheaper to maintain than Mercedes, BMW, and Cadillac. Only Audis are marginally more inexpensive to maintain than Volvos.

Volvo has a lifetime warranty that covers labor costs for specific parts bought from accredited Volvo dealers.

Some parts not covered by the lifetime warranty are:

  • Timing Belts 
  • Batteries
  • Tires
  • Fuses

The cost of replacement parts might be expensive, which is expected as Volvo is a luxury brand.

Volvo Recall Issues

  • 2021 S90, V60, and S60 have problems with their fuel tanks. Volvo had to recall some of these cars because their ECMs had a problem releasing them under pressure.
  • Furthermore, in some V40s and S60s, users noticed cracks in the fuel hose, which leaked into the engine. All V40s and S60s also had problems with high temperatures on the air taken into the engine leading to the melting of the engine manifold.
  • A few Volvos had a software problem that affected the emergency call system.
  • Some cars also had an out-of-specification wheelbase.
  • Degradation in the airbag propellant altered the airbag material.
  • After filling the Volvo engine cooling system, some air bubbles were found.
  • After a while, the tensile strength of the steel used in the steel belts decreases.
  • One of Volvo’s safety software, Active Safety Dom Master, didn’t work correctly so that it couldn’t detect oncoming obstacles.


Volvo has never been the most popular car, luxury or otherwise. They have decades-long baggage to contend with, not to talk of near-collapse when Ford Motor Company acquired the company. In the last decade, though, they have been at the forefront of safe driving, agreeing to a deal to produce self-driving cars for Uber.

Their plan to only produce electric-only or hybrid engines has only also put them at the forefront of technological advancements and placed them on the cusp of achieving something great.

Volvo has a lot to contend with before they can compete with powerhouses like Mercedes and BMW. They also have to consciously work on their changing the public perspective on their reputation. Volvos are much more than a boxy car that is known only for their safety record. They also offer beautiful cars with luxury and excellent driving performance.

Be sure to stay updated on the latest car trends as well—

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