Turbin goes ‘dynamic’ on Volvo

People’s perceptions of safety gear tends to change as technology evolves. Personally the whole notion of a reversing camera on a Saab seems useless and overdone to me, yet I met a woman on the weekend who’s considering switching brands because Saab doesn’t have one – as if she’s a threat to be reversing over kids 24/7.

She doesn’t even have kids!

Anyway, like I said, people’s perceptions of how important things are tend to change as technology advances. One thing that has been a real advance in active safety has been Electronic Stability Control and of course, Saab have it as standard accross the entire range here in Australia.

“Turbin” is an Aussie Saab owner living in Melbourne. He picked up a 9-3 Sport Combi earlier in the year and has been a valuable contributor of ideas and comments at the site. He emailed me this rant a few weeks ago but I’ve been a bit too busy to digest it all. I’m going to post it here, as is, for the consideration of one and all. The one question that we can ask as a result of this is whether or not Saab advertise their safety credentials enough. The other Swede certainly make the most of theirs.

Purely as a curiosity, here’s an example of some really good Saab safety advertising. Click to enlarge. Turbin’s rant on Volvo follows…..


Here’s Turbin’s rant:


Before the Sportcombi hit the market I was looking at the Volvo V50 as I needed a wagon. One thing that really got my goat was that it, and it’s S40 sedan sibling are widely advertised as having, I quote verbatim, “Stability and Traction Control” (also known as STC in Volvo literature) as a standard feature in their base $39,950 (S40) or $42,950 (V50) entry price. This is a feature that is usually listed in their shortlist of features in ads, including the one for the S40 in today’s Herald Sun (nested in a cycling special feature).

Now one has to dig deep and read the right brochure (as its is not explained on the website) carefully to realise that this is not a full stability control system as we know it. It is purely their name for what all other manufacturers call “Traction Control”. Volvo call their full stability control “Dynamic Stability and Traction Control” (DTSC). This is a $2190 option on their $39,950 S and $44,950 SE models and you would be hard pressed to find a single one of these models is Australia with full DTSC fitted. Therefore this is a special order item with a 2-3month wait from the Belgian factory that makes the S40/V50.

Why does this upset me so?

This is a company that uses the motto “For Life” and widely trumpets its safety systems. Australian motoring bodies and media are calling for this technology to be standard across all cars and use the generic term “Stability Control” to encompass all dynamic systems. “Traction Control” is always called exactly that and is a good safety technology but only a subset of a full dynamic system and only acts on driven wheels to stop wheelspin.

So here we have Volvo, synonymous with safety (though they are behind SAAB in both real-world and simulated conditions), widely advertising that “Stability and Traction Control” is standard. In fact the “and” suggests that there are two separate systems encompassed in this term. While browsing the US Volvo forums early this year it was clear that DTSC was lacking there as well and there was much fanfare when it was announced that it would be standard across all US Volvos for 2007. I believed also that if I bought a 2006 Volvo and ordered the DTSC that I would be very upset when it became standard in Oz in 2007. Lo and behold the Volvo Oz site now lists the 2007 models and it is still an option.

Meanwhile we have SAAB with a full (in Volvo terms) ‘dynamic’ system across the board at a similarly priced entry point. This entry point does not include foglights, auto or alloys, items that are all standard on the Volvo. SAAB has other things like our beloved heated-seats standard but on the face of it, it would appear that the Volvo is on-the-whole better specced. The lack of standard DTSC is a big omission though, and at $2190 is a massive price gouge. It’s now standard on all bloody Commodores, “For Life” my arse. It was one of the many reasons to buy the Sportcombi once it finally came out. Interestingly I worked out it would cost over $3000 extra to spec a Volvo to the same level as the base Linear Sportcombi and that’s including the extra $2100 for the auto in the SAAB.

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  1. Turbin has a good point, here.

    Saab has long been an innovator (although I doubt it is innovating on the engineering side much now that Saabs are built alongside Vauxhall/Opels and, soon, no Saabs will be built in Sweden at all)

    Saab has a long list of innovations to it’s name but, historically, it does seem to be ovloV that is synonymous with Safety. That is the general public’s perception: ovloV is the safest car.

    I’ll give ovloV credit where it is due: they came up with three-point harnesses (seat-belts) …but IIRC it was Saab that was first to fit them as standard.

    More recently, Saab came up with SAHR – Saab Active Head Restraint – a mechanical system that does not require resetting that has been proven to reduce whiplash injuries. Volvo, soon after, came up with WHIPS – their take on an anti-whiplash system though different in operation to Saab’s simple and elegant SAHR.

    Saab was also the first car-maker to achieve 5-stars in EuroNCAP crash tests …although Saab’s PR department always make a big song and dance about EuroNCAP tests being contrived and prefering to use ‘real life data’ from Swedish insurer, Folksam, which also proves that the 9-5 is the safest car to be in.

    Here are eleven areas in which Saab innovated (and fitted to production cars before any other manufacturer) for ovloV to market it better:

    – Dual-circuit diagonally split braking system
    – Headlamp wash/wipe
    – Heated seats
    – Self-repairing bumpers
    – Side impact protection beams in the doors
    – Collapsable steering column
    – Cabin “pollen” filters to protect allergy sufferers
    – Asbestos-free brake pads
    – Anti-whiplash head restraints
    – CFC-free airconditioning
    – Ventilated front seats

  2. Good rant. I can’t say how the Saabs stack up vs. Volvo in the US since I pay little attention to Volvo. On the whole, I’d say that Saab doesn’t push these technology differences enough to make rhe general public aware of them.

    John: your pessimism about consolidated design and manufacturing is misguided. with those larger issuew taken care of, Saab can dedicate more resources to these things that make a differnce.

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