Q&A: Volvo XC90 technical boss Håkan Ivarsson on '90 Cluster' models
Ivarsson heads up the development of the XC90 and future S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country
Volvo Cars' technical director for the 90 Cluster models opens up about the development of the XC90. Plus, what's coming for two VCC architectures: SPA and the smaller Geely-Volvo CMA.
Was the development of SPA [Scalable Platform Architecture] begun under Geely ownership or before that time?
It was at the same time.
Was it therefore envisaged as a Geely and VCC project?
It has always been a VCC project. It was fully developed in Gothenburg and we had full control over it. Geely supports that strategy. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have put in all the money.
What role will you play in the development of the S80/L, V70 and XC70 replacements, and then the S60/L, V60 and XC60 - the future SPA models?
We are just finishing off the XC90 programme so I can't yet talk about these cars. But we are looking at how to organise the next steps: I mean, what are the major tasks which we need to manage? I think we have a ‘living’ organisation - how did this module or component work with the first car, what might we need to change?
What is your involvement in the development of the Compact Modular Architecture?
We try of course to have lots of communication between the core team which developed SPA. That core team is now split in three: CMA [next V40 and other C segment Geely and Volvo models], 60 Cluster [next S60, S60L, V60 and XC60] and 90 Cluster [XC90, future S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country].
Looking at a model such as the forthcoming S90, doesn’t it make sense to develop a car like that closer to its main markets - China and the US, rather than Sweden?
I think what we have might change over time, but the reason I am leading Cluster 90 is we keep the team and leadership benefits from the first car into the second car and so on. You want to keep the engineering teams together and maintain that expertise.
The old XC90 was in its day said to be the safest car in production. Those are big shoes to fill.
With passive safety, I think we’re pretty good - we know what we’re doing. But with active safety, this was a very big challenge to keep our leadership: we cannot follow anyone else. I have an example. If you look at the radar camera in the windscreen, the software was developed in California and the hardware in Israel. The different parts of the technology have to talk to one another in milliseconds, and there is another supplier in Japan and one more in Germany. You can imagine how big this development programme then becomes for communication. Not to mention things like translations. But, the safety systems have to work faultlessly and communicate to the driver what is happening and to protect him. That is what really matters.
What happens to VCC’s belief that three- and four-cylinder engines are its future if fuel prices remain as low as they are, or go even lower? Don’t you risk losing a lot of sales in places such as the US?
That is one side of the coin. We need to comply with some tough CO2 and average fuel economy rules that are here now and others that are coming. Our Drive-E engines are a very efficient way to create high performance, and to reduce CO2.