Volvo mines self-driving underground trucks to rock the industry

By Gerry Miles

There’s the thoughts of self-driving cars from Google in what seems to be the ever-developing world of autonomous cars.

What’s the next big thing?

How about an autonomous underground mine truck?

Volvo’s fully autonomous truck is the first in the world to be tested in operations deep underground in the Kristineberg Mine.

The self-driving truck is part of a development project aimed at improving the transport flow and safety there. The truck will cover a distance of 7 kilometers, reaching 1,320 meters underground in the narrow mine tunnels.

 

“This is the world’s first fully self-driving truck to operate under such tough conditions. It is a true challenge to ensure that everything works meticulously more than 1,300 meters underground,” says Torbjörn Holmström, member of the Volvo Group Executive Board and Volvo Group Chief Technology Officer.

Volvo Group is now releasing a film showing the opportunities that open up with autonomous trucks. The film was recorded in harsh operating conditions in the Kristineberg Mine 100 kilometers from Arvidsjaur in northern Sweden. Torbjörn Holmström, who takes part in the film, wants to show how safe the truck is. He didn’t hesitate to stand in the middle of the mine gallery as the truck approached him.
“No matter what type of vehicle we develop, safety is always our primary concern and this also applies to self-driving vehicles. I was convinced the truck would stop but naturally I felt a knot in my stomach until the truck applied its brakes!”

The entirely self-driving truck that takes the lead role in the film is a specially equipped Volvo FMX. Using various sensors, it continuously monitors its surroundings and avoids both fixed and moving obstacles. At the same time, an on-board transport system gathers data to optimise and coordinate the route and fuel consumption. The truck is part of a development project and is being tested in real-life operation for the very first time.

Skol Volvo!

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4 FCA brands win quality awards

  • Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited named best-in-class Entry SUV for third year in a row
  • Fiat 500 leads Micro Car segment in total quality for second consecutive year
  • Dodge Challenger captures back-to-back wins for total quality in Specialty Coupe segment
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee takes home first place in total quality among Mid-Size SUVs
  • FIAT ties for title of industry’s best brand for total quality under $26,000

June 2016 , Auburn Hills, Mich. – Four FCA US LLC vehicles led their respective segments in total quality and the FIAT brand tied for first among automakers for the best brand with vehicles under $26,000 in Strategic Vision’s 22nd annual Total Quality Impact™ (TQI).

Four 2016 FCA US vehicles won their respective segments for total quality:

  • Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited – Entry SUV
  • Fiat 500 – Micro Car
  • Dodge Challenger – Specialty Coupe
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee – Mid-Size SUV

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited won its segment for the third consecutive year while the Fiat 500 and Dodge Challenger both led their segments for the second year in a row.

TQI is based on responses from more than 39,000 owners of new 2016 model year vehicles. The quality study includes more than 155 specific aspects of the customer experience to form a unique and complete measure of the total ownership experience.

“We see time and again that for consumers, innovation does more to communicate quality than an absence of problems does,” said Christopher Chaney, Senior Vice President – Strategic Vision. “Whether it comes in the form of breakthrough technology, re-engineering a vehicle or creating a new model, consumers feel the positive impact of bold new directions taken by manufacturers.”

According to San Diego-based research firm Strategic Vision, the TQI score is a holistic measure that encompasses positive and negative product experiences. This includes reliability, actual problems, driving excitement and other measures that collectively are energized by the emotional response associated with the aggregate of all those experiences – hence Total Quality.

“The future of quality that is meaningful to buyers will reach beyond ‘no squeaks and rattles’ and reside in the successful deployment of engineering innovation and technology that is relevant, intuitive and impactful,” Chaney said.

Autonomous cars? Sure. Give up control of the car? Not yet.

Bryan Reimer, Research Scientist MIT AgeLab and Associate Director of the New England University Transportation Center.

Bryan Reimer, Research Scientist MIT AgeLab and Associate Director of the New England University Transportation Center.

New England Motor Press Association and MIT AgeLab Announce Results of Autonomous Technology Survey

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 31 — The New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) and MIT AgeLab announced the results of their joint survey of consumers on autonomous technology and transportation alternatives.

“Penetration of fully automated vehicles into the mobility space is going to take time and will vary greatly across different regions of the world. These disruptive innovations have enormous potential to enhance mobility however, the trust to adopt these technologies is not yet here and will need to be built slowly over time,” said Bryan Reimer, Research Scientist MIT AgeLab and Associate Director of the New England University Transportation Center. “The survey results suggest there may be some hesitation about one’s comfort with full automation among the older adult population who could benefit the most. The survey suggests that only 1 in 7 respondents 65 or older would be comfortable with fully automated vehicles. The good news however, is that greater than 50% of the older adult market appear comfortable with the concept of technological innovations that help the driver. This clearly overlaps with the current state of vehicle technology offerings.”

Nearly 3,000 respondents took the survey, which asked 12 questions about autonomous technology, how satisfied they were with the technology already in their cars, and how interested they were in transportation alternatives.

The results of the survey suggested that while consumers are interested in advanced safety technologies that assist the driver in reacting to potential collisions, only 40 percent of drivers in the 25 to 35 year old age bracket have any interest in full autonomy. In nearly every other age bracket (16 to 24, 35 to 44, 45 to 54, 65 to 74 and 75-plus), interest in fully-autonomous technology is as low as 12.7 percent.

Other significant data revealed by the survey includes:

  • While some age groups that responded considered car sharing services such as ZipCar to be an alternative to owning a car, across all age groups, fewer that 10 percent of respondents had actually used those services.
  • Eighty-seven percent of respondents surveyed suggested that they were at least neutral in their satisfaction with how technology was integrated in their current vehicle. 52 percent responded at the three highest positions of the satisfaction scale.
  • Despite a push from dealers and OEMs to provide training on how technologies work, 63 percent  of respondents said they learned how their technologies worked by reading the owner’s manual, and    58 percent learned by trial and error. Just 15 percent said they learned from a website on an online video.
Craig Fitzgerald, president of the New England Motor Press Association, speaking at MIT

Craig Fitzgerald, president of the New England Motor Press Association, speaking at MIT

“There’s hardly a limit to the advanced safety technologies we can build into our cars,” said Craig Fitzgerald, NEMPA President and editor-in-chief at the car shopping site BestRide.com. “The survey results indicate that we’re leaving out a critical component if we’re not training drivers on how these technologies actually work. We learned this when we first introduced anti-lock brakes and stability control, and the learning curve is no different now.”

The full results of the survey are available in a .pdf for download at http://bestride.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/MIT-NEMPA-White-Paper-2016-05-30-final.pdf.

Software woes makes car buyers wary: J.D. Power survey

Owners Have Filed 2,011 Software-Related Complaints Registered with NHTSA in Last 5 Years

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DETROIT: — Consumer complaints about vehicle software have been growing steadily over the past several years, and 2016 is already on pace with the record-setting level of 2015, according to data collected by J.D. Power through its SafetyIQ program and released today.

So far in 2016, consumers have filed 202 formal complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pertaining to software that controls the technology prevalent in vehicles. NHTSA had received 204 software-related complaints during the same time a year ago, and logged a total of 615 for the full year in 2015, surpassing the previous annual record of 505 set in 2014. During the past five years, consumers have registered 2,011 complaints related to automotive software with the NHTSA.

“Consumer complaints are the canaries in the coalmine for automobile manufacturers when it comes to anticipating future recalls and longer-term customer satisfaction,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power. “Software-related problems have become much more prevalent and, if not addressed, could begin to erode consumer trust in new automotive technology.”

Using SafetyIQ, an online application developed by J.D. Power that integrates NHTSA data with J.D. Power automotive data, investigators can see a connection between the complaints lodged and recall decisions. For example, the number of recalls is on the rise as well, up 45% between 2014 and 2015.  To date, 189 separate software recalls have been issued in the past five years, impacting more than 13 million vehicles. According to analysis by manufacturers, 141 of these recalls presented a risk of crashing and 44 had a potential consequence of injury. Powertrain, electrical systems, engine cooling and vehicle control systems are the top areas for software complaints and recalls.

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The Link between Complaints and Recalls

“Using this information from owner complaints, automakers can quickly identify whether the problem crosses model lines, components or even other companies with similar components/suppliers, and can begin to address the breadth of the concerns,” Stephens said. “Not every complaint registered by consumers becomes a recall, but they are all very important to manufacturers.”

Once complaints become a recall, by definition they involve a potential safety concern. At this point, only half of the vehicles affected by a software recall have been remedied; the other half may still be on the road.

Technical Service Bulletins on the Rise

Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) trends are a further indication of the increasing concerns raised about automotive software. TSBs represent communication from the auto manufacturers to their dealer bodies on the recommended repair procedure for a consumer issue raised. Manufacturers typically only use this form of communication if they’ve received many complaints, particularly if these complaints do not seem to be addressed through regular warranty repairs. SafetyIQ shows that TSBs pertaining to software issues increased from an average of 58 per year between 2006 and 2010 to an average of 160 per year from 2011 through 2015.

Still, software upgrades aren’t infallible. For example, the J.D. Power 2016 Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS) found that one third of owners reporting a navigation system problem had a software upgrade within the past six months; however, 55% of these consumers said the upgrade did not fix the problem at all. “Even though there is an increasing potential to correct issues using software upgrades, consumer experienced has been mixed,” said Stephens. “Some owners are either not aware of the upgrades available or have reported limited success.”

With the amount of electrical componentry continuing to increase in vehicles—particularly as the industry is on its way to fully autonomous capability—the trend of rising complaints, recalls and TSBs is both expected and worrisome. Understanding and addressing the complaints quickly is paramount, particularly as more vehicle functions are controlled by software. Having the right tools to see and react to these trends can help ensure a safer environment as these vehicle capabilities increase.

Jaguar XF to add diesel all-wheel-drive and boost chassis dynamics

2016 Jaguar XF

2016 Jaguar XF

AT-A-GLANCE

  • All-wheel drive (AWD) now available globally with the clean, refined 180PS four-cylinder Ingenium diesel engine, delivering the ideal balance of all-weather performance and efficiency
  • F-TYPE-derived Intelligent Driveline Dynamics technology maximises traction and performance benefits of AWD while preserving rear-wheel drive agility
  • Adaptive Surface Response mode for Jaguar Drive Control delivers even greater composure in even the most adverse conditions
  • The lightest AWD diesel in the class thanks to Jaguar’s Advanced Aluminium Architecture
  • Configurable Dynamics now available for all 180PS diesel automatics, enabling individual settings for suspension, steering, throttle and transmission for a tailored driving experience
  • Adaptive Dynamics continuously variable damping technology now available on 180PS diesel models with manual transmissions
  • Euro NCAP five-star safety rating and full suite of advanced driver assistance systems
  • Outstanding usability and practicality: segment-leading rear seat space and luggage compartment volume (540 litres)
  • All Ingenium diesels – including AWD – benefit from 21,000 mile/ 24 month service intervals
  • Exceptional total cost of ownership: best-in-class residual values, lowest overall service costs
  • CO2 emissions for the range from just 104g/km – the lowest of any non-hybrid in the segment
  • 180PS Ingenium diesel introduced to North America with rear- and all-wheel drive
  • Updated range available from Spring 2016 (market dependent)

2017 Audi A4 to debut at Detroit

  • With class-leading horsepower, the redeveloped 2.0 TFSI® engine generates 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque
  • Lightweight aluminum-hybrid construction helps to achieve significant weight savings

As the bestselling model in Audi history, the all-new 2017 A4, with innovative design and advanced technologies, sets a new benchmark for the luxury sedan segment. Boasting class-leading horsepower, confidence inspiring driving dynamics, as well as available driver assistance and infotainment systems, the A4 represents the best in every detail from Audi and exceeds the exceptional standards that have become synonymous with the four rings.

2017 Audi A4 
From the redeveloped engine to the available Audi virtual cockpit, technological innovations found throughout the 2017 Audi A4 provided inspiration for the precise and striking design details of the all-new sedan. The exterior has been redesigned to feature sportier proportions including a horizontal, contoured Singleframe® grille, powerful wheel arches and a crisp wrap-around shoulder line which flows seamlessly from the hood to the rear of the vehicle. The interior has a greater feeling of spaciousness and lightness due to a three-dimensional decorative inlay that spans from the door panels across the dashboard. Featuring a completely redeveloped powertrain, the 2.0 TFSI® engine can generate 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. A significant weight savings was achieved through the aluminum-hybrid lightweight construction. The A4 also features a suite of advanced infotainment functions including the available Audi virtual cockpit and a newly designed infotainment system with standard Audi smartphone integration, which supports Apple CarPlay™ and Google™ Android Auto. An available 19 speaker, 755 watt Bang & Olufsen 3D Sound System virtually creates a sense of sound dimensionality offering a revolutionary, life-like musical experience. With exceptional attention to detail, dynamic handling, sharpened design and the latest technologies, the ninth generation A4 sets a new standard in the luxury sedan segment.

Powertrain and Performance

KEY SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL ENGINE TRANSMISSION HORSEPOWER TORQUE
A4 2.0 TFSI® FWD 2.0 TFSI Seven-speed FWD S tronic® 252 hp @ 5,600-6,000 rpm 273 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,500 rpm
A4 2.0 TFSI quattro® 2.0 TFSI Seven-speed quattro S tronic® 252 hp @ 5,600-6,000 rpm 273 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,500 rpm

Chassis and Suspension
The powertrain and chassis of the all-new A4 have been completely redeveloped, allowing for a sportier driving experience and more comfortable ride for long distances. The newly developed S tronic® dual clutch transmission melds efficiency with dynamic shifting characteristics to help optimize fuel consumption. New front five-link suspension allows for greater steering precision and excellent handling through optimized steering-rack placement direct at wheel centers. Handling and comfort enhancements have also improved through the reduced unsprung weight of lightweight aluminum control-arm components and revised elastokinematic attributes.

Chassis and suspension features include

  • New generation of the seven-speed S tronic® dual-clutch transmission for both the front-wheel drive and quattro all-wheel drive vehicles
  • Available quattro all-wheel drive with self-locking center differential and wheel-selective torque control (torque vectoring
  • Standard Audi drive select including four modes – comfort, auto, dynamic and individual which allows the driver to change gear shift points, steering, damper control and adaptive cruise control adjustments
  • Available sport suspension lowers ride height by approximately 23 mm
  • Available adaptive damping suspension (-10 mm ride height) enables various suspension and damping combinations which are adjustable via Audi drive select

Design and Body
The all-new A4 represents the latest refinements in Audi design, from the crisp, wrap-around lines emphasizing the vehicle’s length to the powerful wheel arches that accentuate the vehicle’s performance appeal. The front of the A4 boasts the signature Singleframe® grille which adds depth and sporty character and a newly designed clam-shell hood which flows seamlessly into the shoulder line, giving the A4 a dynamic stance. The available Audi LED headlights with progressive undercut design provide a focused look and give the A4 an unmistakable appearance. With the introduction of LED technology on the Audi R8 and A8, which was then brought to the mass market on the A4, LED headlights are an Audi signature and have become an industry standard.

Design and body highlights include:

  • Singleframe® grille with Aluminum-optic surround
  • Standard Audi xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights and dynamic LED taillights with dynamic turn signals, or optional LED headlights
  • Standard power-adjustable and heated exterior side mirrors
  • Standard 17” 5-parallel spoke design wheels with all-season tires, optional 18” 5-spoke dynamic design wheels with all-season tires or optional 19” Audi
  • Sport 10-V spoke design wheels with summer tires
  • Available special First Edition package includes front sport seats with seat ventilation, aluminum Trimarin inlays, three-spoke multifunction flat-bottom sport steering wheel and 18” Audi Sport® 5-arm pylon design Black/Silver-finish wheels with all-season tires

Interior
The refined interior of the A4, reminiscent of the award-winning interior in Audi’s flagship sedan, the A8, includes greater attention to detail through functional refinements and additional driver-focused technologies. The acoustic windshield was designed to help keep cabin-noise to an exceptionally low level and standard ambient LED interior lighting creates a positive sense of space and highlights the high-quality materials throughout the interior. In addition, the all-new A4 features improved interior space with increased shoulder and head clearance for the driver and front-seat passenger as well as increased rear legroom.

Interior features include:

  • Three-spoke multifunction steering wheel
  • Standard ambient LED lighting
  • Standard three-zone automatic climate control with wing-design wrap-around dashboard and diffuser air vent helps recreate natural airflow
  • 8-way power front seats with 4-way power lumbar support for driver
  • Standard power sunroof with tilt and sliding functionality
  • Split-folding rear seatback with 40/20/40 configuration including center armrest and cup holders

Technology
The Audi A4 offers benchmark infotainment features such as the available Audi virtual cockpit and for the first time, a full-color head-up display, both bring relevant driving information directly front and center for the driver.

Technology features include:

  • Available Audi virtual cockpit features a large, 12.3-inch display that delivers vibrant color at 60 frames per second with NVIDIA® quad core processing power. The virtual cockpit helps make viewing and navigating via the large Google Map images supported with 4G LTE (where available) easier on the drivers’ eyes. It also allows for a better view of the road ahead through full map display and a placement directly in front of the driver. A high mount 7-inch center MMI® display is standard or an available 8.3-inch with MMI Navigation Plus package.
  • Available full-color head-up display, projecting relevant driving information directly in the driver’s field of vision
  • The available Bang & Olufsen® 3D Advanced Sound System option creates a completely new in-car audio experience, specifics include:
    • 19 speakers, 755 watts
    • 16-channel Class D amplifier
    • Anodized aluminum speaker grille insert with “Dynamic Line” design
  • In addition to the traditional MMI® scroll wheel capabilities, the optional MMI all-in-touch (MMI® navigation plus package) features a completely redesigned menu structure and an all-new MMI search, which operates similar to an Internet search engine making text input simpler and quicker.

Audi connect
Audi connect packages together all applications that connect the A4 with the internet, the owner and the surrounding infrastructure. New and improved functions include online traffic info, weather updates, fuel prices, Apple Siri® Eyes Free integration, internet radio streaming as well as picture navigation, read-aloud personalized news headlines and Twitter® alerts, among other features.

Supported by 4G LTE (where available), newly available in-car Audi connect infotainment, security and service features include:

  • Vehicle services such as vehicle status report, online roadside assistance and service interval notification
  • Automatic Crash Notification (SOS)
  • Manual Emergency Call (SOS)
  • Stolen Vehicle Locator

The Audi connect mobile application has also been updated to support new remote services designed for the US market which including Curfew, Speed, and Valet Alerts, remote lock and unlock capability and online car finder.

Driver Assistance:
The all-new A4 incorporates many driver assistance features that are designed to help drivers navigating the road and traffic while making their driving experience more enjoyable.

Driver assistance features:

  • In the case of an impending collision, Audi pre sense® basic can intervene to prepare the vehicle for impact. This process includes beginning to close the side windows and panoramic sunroof, pretensioning the front safety belts, and preparing the brake system for a quicker response during an unexpected or emergency maneuver.
  • Standard Audi pre sense city detects cornering and stationary vehicles as well as pedestrians, at speeds of up to 52 mph and can initiate full braking when a potential collision is detected.
  • Available traffic sign recognition including vehicle speed warning detects speed limits and displays the information in the Audi virtual cockpit or driver information system. Additionally, the system evaluates various driving conditions, no passing zones and school and construction zones.
  • Audi pre sense rear (available on Premium Plus models and standard with Prestige trim) helps monitor the traffic following the vehicle and takes similar actions to Audi pre sense basic.
  • Vehicle exit assist (as part of Audi pre sense rear) can help prevent accidents with a side assist warning light, which blinks and notifies the driver when vehicles or cyclists are approaching from behind as the vehicle doors are opened.
  • Rear cross traffic alert (as part of Audi pre sense rear) supports the driver when reversing out of a perpendicular parking space. Indicator arrows in the MMI® display can inform the driver of approaching vehicles, and in critical situations, a warning tone and brake jolt can be applied, prompting the driver to stop the vehicle.
  • In the event that a sharp maneuver is needed to avoid a collision, collision avoidance assist supports the driver when turning into the adjacent lane.
  • Turn assist (as part of the Driver Assistance package) can detect the approach of oncoming traffic, when making a left-hand turn at an intersection (when the vehicle is stopped or under 7 mph and turn signal is activated).
  • Optional Adaptive cruise control with stop & go and traffic jam assist automatically maintains distance from the vehicle in front, including braking and accelerating to help maintain a set distance. Between 0-37 mph, traffic jam assist combines acceleration, braking and steering guidance, which can take the stress out of driving in congested traffic.

Pricing Detail
Model year 2017 A4 starting manufacturer suggested retail prices:

MODEL PREMIUM PREMIUM PLUS PRESTIGE
A4 2.0 TFSI® $37,300 $41,100 $45,900
A4 2.0 TFSI quattro® $39,400 $43,200 $48,000

*Prices above exclude destination charge ($950), taxes, title, options, and dealer charges.

The all-new entry A4 starts at $37,300* compared to $35,900 for the outgoing model. This ninth generation A4 is now equipped with significant powertrain improvements and an expanded list of standard equipment including keyless start/stop, rearview camera, Audi smartphone interface, LED interior lighting, digital 3-zone automatic climate control and Audi pre sense city.

For more information on the 2017 Audi A4, please visit http://www.audiusa.com.

Always pay careful attention to the road, and do not drive while distracted.

Driver assistance features are not substitutes for attentive driving. See Owner’s Manual for further details, and important limitations.

Audi connect should only be used when it is safe and appropriate. Audi connect services and features are optional, provided with the support of authorized affiliated and third party service providers, and may require additional subscriptions with separate terms and conditions. Available on select models. Certain services collect location information, see Terms of Service for information about how to disable and for other details.

Volvo XC90 wins North American Truck of the Year

The new Volvo XC90

The new Volvo XC90 T6, exterior

BY GERRY MILES

Yes, yes, yes, I know, and you know, that an SUV is not a truck per se. C’mon it used to be based upon a truck’s platform and now of course it’s not. Far from it.

Still Volvo’s XC90 is not a car and fits into the truck category that I was hoping the new Nissan Titan would take home. But I digress.

“We are absolutely thrilled that the XC90 has won this prestigious and most respected award,” said Lex Kerssemakers, President and CEO of Volvo Car USA, “and there is a lot more to come. By 2019 Volvo will have a totally renewed product portfolio. By then the all-new XC90 will be the oldest car in the showroom.”

It is the second time the XC90 has won the North American Truck of the Year award. The first was in 2003, when the vehicle was originally introduced.

“The XC90 is a past winner of our award,” said Tony Swan, a 23-year member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year Jury. “That vehicle was obviously outstanding, but the new XC90’s blend of advanced technology, performance and craftsmanship stands out even more, against much more sophisticated competition.”

The Volvo XC90 features all new platform, powertrain and semi-autonomous driving technologies that set a new standard for the luxury SUV segment. It is available in five or seven-passenger, front or all-wheel-drive configurations with powerful and efficient 250- or 316-horsepower turbocharged and dual-charged engines that can deliver up to an EPA rated 25 MPG. The XC90 is also be available with a 400-horsepower, 53 MPGe hybrid electric powertrain, making it the world’s first seven passenger Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).

All XC90s feature Volvo’s award-winning Sensus infotainment system, which centers on an intuitive, tablet-like touch screen that puts all of the vehicle’s systems and functions at the driver’s fingertips. Volvo City Safety, which includes Pedestrian Detection with Automatic Emergency Braking, automatically applies the brakes should a collision be imminent, is also standard. The available Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system will control vehicle speed and direction at speeds up to 30 MPH. Prices start at $43,900.

Actually, I’m pleased for Volvo. I’ve always liked the brand. My time goes way back to a 144 sedan that my dad bought for us kids and he showed me how to drop a transmission, where a clutch, flywheel, and pressure plate resided and how they all worked. That’s back in the day of Chilton manuals – remember them  – and his own scraped knuckled knowledge as a kid to take it all apart and have it run like a Swiss clock.

I love the XC car line when it came out, and the SUV line is also tops.

Volvo hasn’t been the Volvo of yesteryear during its sale and such. The XC90 and this award shows that Volvo has its mojo back.

Skol!