Sir – Following the use of a thinly disguised picture of the Volvo XC90 in Fleet News (December 2), based on the press release and picture issued (and subsequently withdrawn) by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), I feel I must write to advise you of the steps Volvo has taken to ensure that our SUV counters the particular concerns around the safety and environmental performance of 4x4s.
The safety concerns associated with SUVs have been addressed by some of the following innovations and design features.
We fit an active electronic stability system which minimises the risk of roll-over caused, for example, by a violent evasive manoeuvre.
If the car should nevertheless overturn, the occupants are protected by a number of interacting safety systems – safety belts with pretensioners, inflatable side curtains for all three rows of seats and a reinforced roof structure.
The problem of compatibility in a collision between an SUV and a smaller car has been taken into account; an additional, lower cross member is provided at the front to activate the collision protection systems in the other vehicle.
The safety of other, unprotected road users has been considered by designing the bonnet of the XC90 to act as a deformation zone for the impacted person, to reduce the risk of serious injury. In fact, the XC90’s two-star Euro NCAP score is only beaten by, for example, two of 47 superminis tested – cars that I would imagine an organisation like the NEF would wish consumers to buy.
Turning to environmental impacts, thanks to its seven seats, the XC90 has the carrying capacity of two cars, which surely helps on the school run. Its overall size is similar to our S80 saloon car, so the argument about road space is based more on perception than fact. In the case of the XC90, 80% of our sales have been diesels, with an overall fuel consumption of 31mpg, and so we believe that customers are making informed choices and are paying accordingly.
By law, all vehicles in showrooms and all advertisements and brochures must display fuel consumption and CO2 emissions information, so I am not sure what role proposed additional information on SUVs would serve other than to single out one class of vehicle which may anyway be difficult to define. There is a huge difference between a Suzuki Grand Vitara and a Hummer – yet both are SUVs! I have some sympathy with the US campaigns against the use of vehicles such as the Hummer as a private car, but to import that argument to Europe, without a fuller examination of UK legislation and the performance of individual vehicles, is a step too far.
What is for sure is that these vehicles are immensely popular and, for us, XC90 has been a huge global success with production increased from 50,000 a year to 90,000 in two years. We have diverted production to the UK to meet demand, though we still have a waiting list – perhaps because people do have a conscience and want to be seen to have made a responsible choice.
If we ‘ban’ 4x4s, what’s next – all large cars, all high-performance cars? How much of the argument is based on envy? All very thought-provoking but let’s look at a broader range of facts before rushing to judgement.
We have offered the NEF the opportunity to borrow an XC90 as it is in all our interests that people engaged in this debate are better informed of each other’s views.
Director of Public Relations, Volvo Car UK
Service Inclusive pack benefits vehicle owner
SIR – I have just read the excellent report on the BMW 1-series and the comparison with its rivals. Within the SMR costs section, you mention the Service Inclusive package that is available at an extra cost of £500 and the fact that this will impact on the driver’s P11D value.
I believe this is incorrect as the Inland Revenue has already stated that Service Inclusive packs are not a benefit-in-kind to the driver but are a benefit to the owner.
Group fleet manager, Bowmer & Kirkland