Should I buy a Volvo in Australia?

Hi John,

Just wanting your advice on the Volvo V40 R-Design? We drove the my16 and quite liked it but am concerned with reliability issues.


Hello Mars,

Volvo is a very interesting brand with excellent, innovative design, and a strong track record (historically) on safety.

  • Unfortunately, Volvo was not really helped by long-term Ford ownership (pre-GFC) and really not helped when Ford sold it to the Chinese to avoid bankruptcy in 2008 (GFC). The Chinese bought Volvo primarily to acquire Volvo's intellectual property and pump it through their domestic (Chinese) fleet of cars. Making Volvo a global powerhouse was not a priority (for Ford, nor the Chinese). They just wanted the technology).
  • Currently Volvo has significant quality control and reliability problems, and very poor sales volumes in Australia. It’s likely that this will impact resale value significantly, as well as being a significant ownership risk factor.
  • Low sales volumes mean a) it's hard to get a discount because it's hard to play one dealer off against another, b) there are low inventories of spare parts onshore in Australia and it might take months to get some replacement widget here on a slow boat from Gothenburg, and c) dealers generally don't invest that much in technical training for Volvo products so it can be very hard to get problems sorted out (diagnosed and rectified). This can be extremely frustrating because you buy one of these things expecting a premium ownership experience. That's often not what eventuates.

In 2015 Volvo sold fewer than 5000 cars in Australia (in a market of 1.1 million vehicles). The company is about as irrelevant as Skoda. Renault - itself no great shakes in the sales volume department) sold more than double that. Lexus (which is of course backed by Toyota) sold almost 9000 vehicles. This is where I would be headed if I were you. Great customer support. Japanese build quality. Propped up by the biggest player in the Australian market (Toyota). Maybe not quite as cool. Maybe a little more expensive, depending on which one takes your fancy.

In short: Volvo makes attractive cars, but it's a real shame about the quality control. I would hate you to buy one without knowing this, and factoring in these risks. Click here >> to get the ball rolling on that. I'm happy to help you get one for the right price if you decide to proceed. It’s a gorgeous looking car that’s great to drive, certainly. I'm pretty sure it might prove not to be such a great ownership prospect.

John Cadogan