Visit Sweden: Volvo Factory

August 21, 2014

Volvo Tour3

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

As part of my agreement related to this Sweden trip, I was asked to include the hashtag #inavolvo as I document our trip. A separate blog post about Volvo was not part of the agreement. So this post is not a sponsored post. But I wanted to write about what I learned at Volvo factory because I think you’ll find it interesting. I certainly did.

The Volvo factory is just outside of Gothenburg, and part of our itinerary included a visit to the facility to attend a safety demonstration and get the scoop on the Overseas Delivery Program. This program is pure genius and whoever figured it out wins the prize for… I don’t know, being a genius.

Basically, it’s this: If you live in the United States or Canada and you buy a new Volvo, you’ll get airfare for two to Sweden, plus a night in the Radisson Blu in Gothenburg (a lovely hotel, I included a photo of it at the bottom).

Why? For several reasons (free trip to Europe!), but the main one is that it actually brings down the price of the car. For reals. As a customer, you buy the car from your local U.S. Volvo dealer, then you come to Sweden, pick up the car from the factory, drive it around the countryside, or maybe take a side trip north to Norway. Then, you drop it off at the factory again, and they deliver it at no charge to your U.S. dealer. By doing this, it allows the car to be brought to the U.S. as “used” instead of “new” and the import tax is lower. Which, like I said, brings down the overall cost of the car.

So in a nutshell, if you’re buying a Volvo, taking a free trip to Sweden will get you the best price!

Fantastic, right?

Volvo Tour2

While we were at the factory, we met three couples from the U.S. who were all taking part in this Overseas Delivery program. One of the couples was taking part for the 5th time! The program has been going on for about a dozen years, and apparently there’s at least one couple who buys a Volvo every year, and then spends the summer touring Europe. Hah!

Of course, I asked a million questions. The first of which was: So, why doesn’t every Volvo customer participate in this program? And the answer was three-fold. One, not everyone enjoys traveling. Two, sometimes a customer wants to buy something off the lot because they need a car in a hurry (ordering a car through the Overseas Delivery program is a 2 to 3 month process). And three, not every dealer participates, so not every customer knows about the program — but you can find the nearest participating dealer here.

Other things I learned about the program from Volvo reps and from the couples who were participating:

When you pick up the car, it has a temporary license plate and temporary insurance. The insurance is good for two weeks, or you can increase it up to 3 months for an additional fee. The license plate is good for 3 months at no extra cost. What that means is that you don’t have to keep the trip to 24 hours, you can travel around while you’re there — for a few days, two weeks, or even up to 3 months! Related, many European countries have visitor visas that expire after 3 months, so this timing matches that.

The couples we spoke to were all making an extended trip out of it — the trip of a lifetime for one of the couples: three weeks all over Scandinavia. Gothenburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Finland, Oslo, Bergen and the fjords! This is all totally drivable.

Another couple was driving the car south to France and Spain. They are going to drop it off in France after their travels are done. Then, the Volvo dealership will send it back to Gothenburg (for a fee) and it will be shipped at no cost to their U.S. dealer.

So basically, you can use the free airfare and turn this into a European dream vacation if you’re so inclined.

On the other hand, if you simply want the better price, you can make the trip as short as possible and drive around Gothenburg for a bit, then hand the car back over to the factory for delivery.

Volvo Tour4

Another thing I learned is that by ordering a car through this program, you can specify exactly what you want. Make, model, color, upholstery, add-ons, accessories — you get to build your ideal Volvo. This appeals to me for obvious reasons.

Okay. So I’m obviously fascinated by the Overseas Delivery program. But as I mentioned, I also attended a Volvo safety demonstration. I wasn’t expecting to get much out of it, but Ben Blair and I have since discussed it at least twice a day since we attended.

Volvo Tour6

First we talked about the importance of safety, and what happens to the weight and impact of humans, pets and objects in a car during a wreck. Then, three volunteers got to test their speed reflexes — Ben Blair’s were the fastest (of course). I already associated Volvo with safety, but just assumed it was their marketing tactic. I didn’t understand it was the company’s core guiding value, and the number one thing they’ve focused on from the beginning. They take safety super seriously.

They invented the 3-point harness, then, when they saw how effective it was, quickly made it available to all car manufacturers. And to this day, it’s the safety innovation that saves the most lives. But they didn’t stop at an improved safety belt.

Every time there’s a serious accident here in Sweden that involves a Volvo, their engineers go to the scene. They study and document the wreck, then they recreate the same crash in their massive safety labs so they can figure out how they might lessen the impact to the people inside the cars. They don’t just sort-of recreate the crash. Their machinery allows them to stage a wreck inside the lab from any angle or point of impact. It’s truly amazing.

My brain doesn’t work like that. Like everyone, I know serious car wrecks happen every day, and I just assume it’s part of the gamble of life. I hear about safety improvements in car advertisements, and shrug and think they don’t really change the overall safety statistics. I accept that cars are dangerous, and try to block out the worst case scenarios from my mind.

Volvo Tour5

But Volvo engineers’ brains are different than mine. Like me, they know car crashes are going to happen, so they figure out every possible way to either prevent them, or lessen their impact. They take what they’ve learned from studying real-life wrecks and make improvements. Real improvements. A decade or so ago, 10% of car crashes involving a Volvo resulted in major injury or death to the people in the car. Then, they made more safety improvements, and brought the number down to 4%. Then, they made more safety improvements, and at this point, they’ve brought that number down to 2%. Those numbers represent real people and real lives that are being saved.

Their current goal is to bring the number to 0% by 2020. And based on their track record, I have no doubt they’ll reach it. Just think: By 2020, if you are driving a Volvo and get in a serious accident, there will be 0% chance that you will receive a serious injury. Zero percent chance that you will die. I’m stunned by that thought.

And that’s what Ben and I have been discussing. We don’t own a Volvo. We’ve never owned a Volvo. There isn’t actually a Volvo that seats 8 people, so we’ve never even considered it. But suddenly, we were feeling irresponsible for driving around our kids in anything but a Volvo. Or what about teen drivers who are particularly at risk for car wrecks? We have two teenagers, both working toward their drivers licenses — if we could reduce their chance of being seriously hurt in a car crash to 2 percent, why wouldn’t we do that?

Of course, that brought up bigger questions like: should safety features this good be required by law for all new vehicles? And even though these safer cars are more expensive to make, do they ultimately save money for a country because of fewer catastrophic injuries and related medical care? Would safer cars mean less car insurance and far fewer associated legal battles? Should governments subsidize the purchase of safer cars to make them available to all income levels?

Obviously, these are big questions, and I don’t pretend to have the answers, but as you can imagine, we have been discussing this topic repeatedly since the safety demonstration, and I’m sure we’ll be discussing it for weeks and months to come.

Volvo Tour7

As we finished up at Volvo, the last step was to pick up a car that we could drive up the coast. The car they loaned us for the week is a V-60 R-Design. It has sporty details and smart features — like it shows you on the dashboard what the speed limit is on whatever road you’re driving, and the number changes instantly whenever the speed limit changes. It’s both good-looking and highly functional — exactly what I expect from Swedish design.

We love it and we feel safe as we drive on these new-to-us roads. If you’re following along on Instagram, you may have seen  a peek of it. It certainly feels like the ideal car to be driving around Sweden, where something like one in every 7 vehicles is a Volvo. : )

Volvo Tour8 Volvo Tour9

I know I covered quite a bit in this post, but I’d love your thoughts on any of it. What do you think of the Overseas Delivery program? Does it get your European vacation imagination going? And what are your thoughts on the 0% serious injury goal? I’d love to discuss either with you!

P.S. — Related to that 0% goal, in the next 3 years, there will be 100 self-driving cars in the streets of Gothenburg. These will be customer cars, not test cars. Wow!

Volvo Tour1

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mary | My Life in Scotland August 22, 2014 at 2:08 am

Holy crap. I want Volvo! We have been living without a car for 6 yrs in the UK and last year we bought a car. We didn’t give this much thought. Now I can’t help but think we need a Volvo! ….and a European vacation.

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2 Alice September 2, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Man I want these programme in the UK, now! I don’t even want to know my tatty old car’s safety record :S

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3 Ania @ The New Diplomat's Wife August 22, 2014 at 2:37 am

Volvo also has a great Overseas delivery program for diplomats and military and we always thought it would be great if they did it for civilians as well – happy to know they have this in place! The discounting can be really significant so the savings can definitely pay for any Euro-gallivanting – glad that you guys got the opportunity to see Scandi!

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4 Katie August 22, 2014 at 6:32 am

Friends of my parents bought a car through the overseas delivery program last year. My husband is Danish, so he helped them build their itinerary to tour all over Scandinavia. He even arranged for them to visit with my mother-in-law in her small town about an hour outside of Copenhagen. It’s great to read how committed Volvo is to safety (how often do you hear things like that, nowadays?)–we’ve had several volvos in the past but not currently…sending this post to my husband now. :)

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5 Julia August 22, 2014 at 6:35 am

I love the ODP and have done it twice. Two notes:

It’s not just volvo. Almost all European manufacturers have a program. I think VW is the big exception.

It’s only a little cheaper than the sticker price (msrp) and it’s not negotiable. And nobody pays msrp for a new car. Last month we bought a new car that ended up about being 3500 below msrp with several options throw in, a pretty average negotiated rate. And cheaper than the ODR. Sometimes it can still be a deal, but often it’s not.

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6 Kelleyn August 22, 2014 at 6:48 am

Can I bring that older Volvo home! Adore!

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7 Jess. August 22, 2014 at 11:37 am

Right? I don’t want “a” Volvo, I want *that* Volvo. And a vacation.

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8 Amy August 22, 2014 at 7:21 am

I participated in the Overseas Delivery Program in 2011 when we bought our XC-60. It was fantastic. The price to us was about the same as the price we would have negotiated the dealer down to, so there was no savings on the price of the car, but we got a fantastic vacation out of it. Things I loved about the program, beyond what you wrote include:
-There’s no negotiation on the price of the car. I always hate haggling at car dealerships and we avoided it.
-Touring around Sweden for a week in our new XC-60!
-The tour of the Volvo factory and spending a weekend in Gotenburg was amazing. The precision involved, the great design elements, and the attention to workers rights all made me happy about my choice of car.

And three years later we’re still driving our XC-60 and haven’t had any issues with it.
But when we were there they were talking about discontinuing the program because the dollar was so weak. Is that still on the table?

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9 Alexandra August 22, 2014 at 7:23 am

What a fascinating post! Thanks for taking the time to share this. I had no idea about the Overseas Delivery Program, but it sounds wonderful. It’s also nice to hear a little more about Volvo’s attitude towards safety and how it is making a real impact. Wouldn’t it be great if ALL car makers/designers were as focused and committed to that 0% rate?

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10 Nora August 22, 2014 at 7:54 am

Wow. So, I’m in. This program is ringing and faint bell for me, but I think I convinced myself it was too good to be true and wrote it off as hype. We are due for a new vehicle so…

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11 Patty August 22, 2014 at 7:55 am

Cool! I know Audi, BMW and Porsche also have this service. I have one friend who did this via Porsche and said it was amazing! Got to “race” the car on a track in Germany.

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12 Sara August 22, 2014 at 8:14 am

Audi has it, too? That’s awesome. An Audi is going to be my big 40th b-day splurge, maybe we’ll make a trip out of it!

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13 Patty August 22, 2014 at 9:15 am
14 Michele August 24, 2014 at 12:44 am

We were tempted to do this when we ordered our A6 but the delivery date was too close to another delivery date. ;)

I was fantasizing about getting a Mercedes sprinter RV and doing something similar, but all of the RV conversions are aftermarket so I had to tuck that dream to bed.

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15 LaNell August 22, 2014 at 8:08 am

“Drive safely” was not just a Volvo advertising slogan at our house. A 22 year old rust colored 1978 Volvo was the teenage driver car and safety was drilled into said drivers. We raised good drivers with good driving records who tease about their parents being the “safety police”, but are secretly very proud.

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16 Anne August 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm

I knew my mom would comment on this post because we both read this blog and Volvos are special to our family. I drove the old 240 and it was safe and fun for a high schooler (and now as a parent I know my parents must have worried much less about our safety!) This looks so fun and I would love to go to the museum. Someday!

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17 Christie August 22, 2014 at 8:12 am

I wonder if it’s possible to have the car shipped to another country than the US? We currently live in the US (and could pay in US dollars) but we’ll be moving back to Australia in a year or so. It’d be great to buy a car using this program but have it shipped to Australia instead of the US.

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18 Katherine August 22, 2014 at 8:29 am

This was indeed a very interesting post. I’ll be sharing this information with my husband and others. Thank you!

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19 Renee August 22, 2014 at 8:55 am

Where was this post 2 months ago!? :) We just bought our 4th Volvo and wish I had known about this before now. However, my impulsive husband might not have been able to wait. We both love our Volvos (S 60 and XC60) and might not ever change. I love the safety features! I was once rear ended with my 6 month old baby in the rear seat. He never even woke up! When I’m ready for the station wagon, now I think I’ll need to plan a vaca with it :)

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20 Margaret August 22, 2014 at 9:10 am

When I was born in the early eighties my dad bought a volvo wagon just to drive me in and then later my brother. He kept his studebakers and thunderbird for driving when he didn’t have kids in the car. We are kind of a car family. He let me restore 1961 comet when I was a teenager but I wasn’t allowed to drive it because it didn’t have airbags.

We have always had a volvo wagon and Dad upgrades every time they come out with a new safety innovation like side airbags. Its what I learned to drive on and my dad swears by them. It breaks his heart a little bit that I love my toyota corolla and have been refusing switching to a volvo. We always buy late model used cars, and the ones in the late 90s are kind a lemons, or at least all of the volvo mechanics we know (and at this point we know a lot) say that, and then I don’t like the lack of pick up under 30 in the ones after that until the most recent models since I am mostly a city driver, but I just moved to Northern Idaho and I like to cross country ski so if I do start getting into the back country I think my dad might get his wish. He literally has an extra volvo wagon that he got a great deal on waiting for me.

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21 Meredith August 22, 2014 at 9:13 am

Love this…but…everyone I know who had owned a Volvo recounts horrible stories of repair costs and delays and frustration. Thoughts?

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22 Issa August 22, 2014 at 11:18 am

As the child of a life long Volvo mechanic….in a lot of places, especially dealerships these days, they don’t hire people who have been trained on Volvos and then it does take them longer to fix them, because they’re different than a lot of cars and regular mechanics have trouble figuring it out. Not sure why, but my dad frequently fires guys who lied and said they understood Volvos, but really they thought they could fake it. The key is to find a good trust worthy Volvo mechanic and always use them. But I realize that can be hard to do. I don’t own one because I live in a different state than my father and couldn’t find someone good where I live.

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23 Ali August 22, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I drove an S60 for nine years and had a lot of trouble with it, despite bringing it to multiple “Volvo certified” and Volvo dealerships for repairs. It eventually became so costly and unpredictable (it stopped running at 145,000 miles and the dealership told me there was nothing more they could do), so I had to trade it in for $500. I drive a volkswagen now, which I like, but it’s not the same as Volvo. I won’t buy another one, though. :(

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24 Heidi August 23, 2014 at 1:40 pm

We bought a Volvo V70 wagon 14 years ago. I was so excited-I was about to have our 2nd child-I knew how safe Volvo cars were. Without a doubt, it was the most luxurious car I’d ever (or may ever) have. It also turned into the biggest expensive mistake we ever made. It was constantly back at the dealership for various repairs. They could never figure out what was wrong with it. The 2nd Volvo dealership and shop we took it to kept it for a few YEARS as a tester of all their new equipment. Finally-we just donated it-pretty much as scrap. As much as I wanted to love that car, we will never buy another Volvo, and we tell everyone we know what a lemon it was.

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25 Maman5 August 22, 2014 at 9:44 am

We almost did the Overseas program, but bought our Volvo in the U.S. I love my XC90! However, we have had a lot of problems with the car which technicians couldn’t figure out. We got a new engine in the end. I don’t know if I would buy another one. Safety was a definite selling point.

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26 Grania August 22, 2014 at 9:50 am

We’ve got a Volvo (an 850 now called V70) about 15 years old, and I always feel safe in it (compared to my 24 year old Golf). We actually saw the 850 model as a 8 seater (with the very back “bench” being rearfaced) in UK just a couple of weeks ago – and my sister-in-law, who also has five siblings said that used to be their family car! But probaby discontinued ages ago….

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27 Melissa August 22, 2014 at 10:02 am

So sharing this with the husband!

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28 Issa August 22, 2014 at 10:59 am

I love that you got to have this experience. My dad is a Volvo mechanic. (In the south bay area if you ever buy one.) I love Volvos and ohhhh how I want to buy one and go get it overseas. Maybe in a few years. :)

My first car was an old 70′s burnt orange colored station wagon. GREAT teen first car. My siblings and I all had our turn on the pumpkin mobile and I think my cousin even got it eventually. I highly recommend you guys look for one for the kids. If it was in decent condition and not too old, you could probably pass it all the way down to June.

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29 Erin August 22, 2014 at 11:47 am

Did they talk about fuel efficiency at all on the tour? I was in a pretty bad car wreck in February and when I needed to buy a new car, I had to weigh a heightened need for safety with fuel efficiency. For Americans who drive everywhere, there has to be a balance. Ultimately it was the fuel costs that kept me from a Volvo. But if they improved that, I might be sold next time around. Especially if it included a trip to Sweden!

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30 Nic September 5, 2014 at 2:13 am

The current S60/V60 get an average 37 mpg on highways.

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31 Patty August 22, 2014 at 4:17 pm

I love my Volvo! I have a 2001 V70 wagon. It seats 7 with the rear jump seat. It’s not considered a “cool” car by my teen driver, but I feel better when he’s in it on the road.

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32 CeeBee August 23, 2014 at 11:56 am

We just bought that model in a wagon and I love it. I’m worried about repair costs because Volvo parts are pricey and the car is old but it’s in great shape from the original owner & even still smells new. A change of pace from dedicated Honda owners but we wanted a station wagon.

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33 mae serious August 22, 2014 at 8:40 pm

We just bought an old classic 240 brick wagon. My husband uses it as a work car right now but we definitely had our future teen drivers in mind when we bought it. Plus, it’s just rad.

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34 Melissa August 22, 2014 at 9:22 pm

We plan on doing this at some point, maybe when the new xc90 comes out! My sister in laws family got a Volvo through overseas delivery and drove it all over europe a few summers ago. Last summer my husbands parents did it with an Audi and also spent a few weeks driving it all over Europe. Such a great idea!

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35 Doris August 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Can you ask them what I should do with my Volvo 2003 XC90 ( well taken care of) that stopped on the highway ( yes stopped..no power steering, no power brakes, no lights). When I took it in for service they checked it out charged me $300 and said no problem found. I refused to take it back and asked for more tests. They said no problem charged me an extra $400 and returned it to me saying no problems were found. So I paid $700.00 for them to tell me nothing needed fixing.
I’m terrified and refuse to put my kids in it. Will the Volvo team investigate if it happens on the highway again and the semi slams into me?
I’m sorry to leave this comment but truly I’m stymied as to my next approach.

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36 Heidi August 24, 2014 at 1:31 pm

The same exact thing happened to my husband when he was driving on the DC Beltway. So scary. None of the Volvo shops could ever figure out what was wrong with it. We ended up donating the car as pretty much scrap. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news-but we did not have a good experience with Volvo.

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37 Emily August 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I grew up being mortified by our old 240 station wagons, but now I have such a fondness for them! My parents still have my college 1985 240 and we all think it’s going to outlive us!

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38 Pam August 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm

BMW also has an overseas delivery program and my husband and I participated in that several years ago. We had so much fun driving all over southern Germany and Austria in our brand new convertible. They have drop off sites all over Europe, which was a piece of cake (although Italian drop sites were discouraged as the cars were then driven to the actual shipping points by people who enjoy speed). We’re always trying to think of reasons to go back and get a new car. Although airfare wasn’t included, we saved about $3,000 (my husband is a pilot so our airfare was free, which was a nice perk). I highly encourage anyone who can take the time to do it to participate in this program–SO much fun!

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39 Anita Hellyer August 25, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Hej Hej!
My husband and I participated in the Volvo Overseas Program last year. We ordered a 2014 XC60 and began to plan the “vacation of a lifetime”! My great grandfather was born in Granna, Sweden and I had longed to visit his birthplace since 1980, when I researched my family history. My husband yearned to see the beaches of Normandy, France.

Adding to our enjoyment, my niece ordered a Volvo too, so we spent the next 4 days as we travelled across Sweden with her family and my brother. In all, we visited 7 countries in 17 days, beginning in Gothenburg where we were met by a Volvo representative. Our Volvo was presented to us the next day, and off we went!
We spent time in Granna, Stockholm, And Kosta, before heading south through Denmark, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, then back to Brussels to drop off the car. One of the BEST time of our life. Memories to last a lifetime!!

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40 Aaron August 27, 2014 at 10:55 pm

A friend of mine did this with BMW. He had fun, but hadn’t told his partner he was buying the car… Whoops.

I’ve also heard a lot of bad things about Volvo reliability that doesn’t jive with the reputation for quality. I’ve heard this attributed to Ford’s purchase of Volvo, but can’t substantiate that.

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41 monina August 28, 2014 at 10:00 am

Congrats on the new car! We purchased the V-60 in May in SF. Not one single regret! The gas mileage is amazing as well!

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