It’s technically not empty, but there won’t be any cars in it

Volvo will be in attendance at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, except that it won’t bring in any car — concept or production — with it. Instead, the Swedish automaker is renting premium space at the event to show…nothing. Ok, that’s not entirely true, either. Volvo will have its own booth at the show, but the booth is described as a showcase to show the automaker’s “vision,” specifically in “redefining what a car can be.” In other words, Volvo’s booth at the L.A. Auto Show will consist of a number of areas that talk about the company’s future services and a giant sculpture in the middle with the message: This Is Not a Car.

The L.A. Auto Show is Going to Be Packed and Some Genius Decided to Keep Volvo's Stand Empty
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Volvo’s done a great job reinventing itself in the past few years, at least since Chinese auto giant Geely purchased it back in 2010. The automaker’s current lineup is made up of some of the best models in their respective segments. The Swedish automaker has also done a tremendous job in steering its services and technological advances to bigger and better things.

We’re even going to see a lot of these services get talked about at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show.

That’s all great, but the idea of a major automaker participating in an auto show without bringing a car sounds silly to me. Volvo clearly has a different take on the matter, or at least that’s what Mårten Levenstam, head of Product Strategy at Volvo Cars, alluded to in explaining Volvo’s peculiar strategy at the L.A. Auto Show.

“By calling the trade show Automobility LA, the organizers have recognized the disruption affecting our industry,” Levenstam said. “We want to demonstrate that we got the memo and start a conversation about the future of automobility. So instead of bringing a concept car, we talk about the concept of a car.”

The L.A. Auto Show is Going to Be Packed and Some Genius Decided to Keep Volvo's Stand Empty
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Judging by a mock-up of its display in the event, Volvo’s car-less booth will instead feature series of interactive displays focusing on services the automaker is currently developing for the future.

There’s a section in the booth dedicated to “Care by Volvo,” the company’s new car-acquisition method that does away with traditional sales in favor of a subscription service.

Volvo also has a developing partnership with Amazon on in-car deliveries. That has its own section, as well. Future tech offerings like autonomous driving and connectivity will also feature in Volvo’s booth, as is a giant sculpture in the middle that’s the farthest thing from a car as you can imagine.

Overall, the setup actually looks great, except that it’s missing a car. As much as Volvo tries to spin the event as “not a car show,” the L.A. Auto is a car show. New cars, old cars, concept cars. It doesn’t matter. A lot of them will be in attendance at the event. Even if Volvo isn’t going to say it, I bet it’s going to have some kind of buyer’s remorse — or is renter’s remorse? — when the L.A. Auto Show opens, and its car-less booth is surrounded by, well, cars.

The L.A. Auto Show is Going to Be Packed and Some Genius Decided to Keep Volvo's Stand Empty
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It’s definitely a strange way to spend all this money to show nothing.

It’s even stranger when you consider that this is the same automaker that skipped on the 2018 North American International Auto Show and the 2018 Geneva Motor Show because it wanted to spend its marketing funds in other ways.

I’ll give Volvo this: it did spend its marketing budget in other ways. It just so happens that it involves attending the same type of show it ditched more than once this year to show…without a single car in tow.

Volvo Cars comes to Automobility LA this year with a world-first: not a single car on the stand.

Instead the company will demonstrate its vision, redefining what a car can be.

Since motor shows were introduced, the car has always been a centrepiece, on a rotating stage or covered under a silk sheet. Yet cars are changing, the industry is changing and so are the expectations of people who use cars. Volvo at Automobility LA reflects these changes.

How consumers experience a car brand is today more important than chrome, leather or horsepower. So on the Volvo stand, visitors will look to the central space where they would expect to find a car, and instead see a simple yet surprising statement: ‘This Is Not A Car’.

“By calling the trade show Automobility LA, the organisers have recognised the disruption affecting our industry,” said Mårten Levenstam, responsible for product strategy at Volvo Cars. “We want to demonstrate that we got the memo and start a conversation about the future of automobility. So instead of bringing a concept car, we talk about the concept of a car. We will not win the ‘car of the show’ award this year, but we are comfortable with that. Because this is not a car show.”

In addition to this powerful statement, Volvo Cars will show a number of interactive demonstrations of connectivity services, such as in-car delivery, car sharing, its vision for autonomous driving as displayed in the Volvo 360c concept and the car subscription service Care by Volvo.

“Our industry is changing. Rather than just building and selling cars, we will really provide our customers with the freedom to move in a personal, sustainable and safe way,” said Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo Cars. “We offer our customers access to a car, including new attractive services whenever and wherever they want it.”

Volvo Cars really believes in the power of strategic partnerships. With established tech companies like Amazon, Google and Nvidia, as well as with technology startups like Luminar and Zenuity, Volvo demonstrates innovative interaction with new types of partners.

With the new company purpose Freedom to Move in a personal, sustainable and safe way, Volvo sets the direction for the future. By the middle of next decade, half of the annual car volume will be fully electric, one-third will be autonomous and Volvo will establish over 5 million direct consumer relationships.

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