Earlier this month, Volvo announced it will to 180 kilometers per hour, or 112 miles per hour, from the 2021 model year. Despite the angry comments you might have read online, Anders Gustafsson, Volvo Cars America president and CEO, said the move has been well-received by the general public.
"I received a lot of emails and texts and phone calls … Very very very positive," he said in a roundtable interview with journalists Wednesday. "I would say 80 percent extremely positive."
Gustafsson said that might be in part because Volvo buyers "have a specific DNA" that makes them more interested in safety-focused car innovation. Either way, he said that introducing car safety tech helps the company stand out in a crowded new-car market like the US.
"We can be more competitive based on our legacy of safety, instead of pushing in more discounts to move our metal," Gustafsson said. "And that's, I would say, one of the ideas why safety is so important to us."
For Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson, the move is also designed to send a message that the brand has a. Still, he concedes a 112-mph limit might not prevent many deaths alone. A bigger risk is driving too fast for conditions.
"There are maybe not too many accidents that occur above 180," he said in a roundtable interview. "Speeding is really, you're speeding faster than your capability."
He said he knows that's not an attitude that will sit well with everybody, especially car enthusiasts addicted to speed. But if the upshot is that it lures safety-focused shoppers into Volvo showrooms, well, that's a net positive.
"I'm not so nervous we will lose a lot of customers, but if we lose some, I am quite sure we will gain more," Samuelsson said. "We want to attract people who think it's important to drive safe."
For now, Volvo is the only carmaker to make such a bold public commitment to reducing speeds in its cars. Samuelsson hopes that by being first, Volvo is sending a message to other companies.
"I would not be surprised if all cars would have speed limiters in five years," he said said.
On the other hand, Volvo doesn't see any value in limiting cars' acceleration performance. That's good news for enthusiasts who might have worried Volvo's speed cap also meant an end to sporty cars. (And it's worth noting that.)
"Acceleration, definitely not planned to be limited," Samuelsson said. "I think it's not necessary."