Car buyers who want to drive at breakneck speeds on Germany’s autobahn highways are about to lose Volvo as an option.
The Swedish car brand, which has long taken pride in its attention to safety, will design all models by 2020 to prevent drivers from going faster than 180 kilometers (110 miles) per hour. The measure takes aim at excessive speed, which along with intoxication and distraction is one of the three main factors behind serious road accidents, Chief Executive Officer Hakan Samuelsson said.
“There is no reason why you should be able to drive a Volvo faster than 180,” Samuelsson said in a phone interview. “When you look at German highways, a large part of accidents are due to overspeeding, and in a German context that surely includes anything above 180.”
The measure comes as Gothenburg-based Volvo, which is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., faces headwinds as a trade dispute between the U.S. and China disrupted production plans and pushed last year’s margins lower for the first time since 2012. The CEO expects that strengthening Volvo’s safety credentials will offset any negative impact from losing customers who want to be able to drive as fast as they see fit.
“We can have a discussion about whether we are acting as a ‘big brother’ and we are happy to debate that,” Samuelsson said. “I think we will attract more buyers than we’ll lose.”
Volvo started a campaign in 2007 aimed at eliminating injuries and fatalities in crashes involving the company’s cars by 2020. After addressing extreme speeds, Volvo will be looking at technology to prevent accidents caused by driving while impaired, or by distractions such as mobile-phone use.
“With new technology, we can address those,” Samuelsson said. “There will be cameras that are capable of registering facial expressions and, I’m sure, detect drug and alcohol use.”
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