DETROIT – While some Volvo engineers develop cars they say will save the lives of anyone who drives them, others are finishing details of the XC90 SUV that launches next fall at the Paris auto show after a series of three concept cars paves the way.

The Concept XC Coupe at the North American International Auto Show here is the second concept in the series, after the XC Concept at Frankfurt’s IAA show, and a third to be presented at Geneva in March.

“In Sweden, government studies have found that modern Volvos have a fatality rate 50% lower than the average modern car,” says Alain Visser, senior vice president-marketing, sales and service. “By 2020, we will create cars in which no one will be killed or seriously injured.”

The passive safety and crash protection of current Volvos will be enhanced with active electronic systems, he says, including pretensioning of 3-point seatbelts when a crash is inevitable, and autonomous steering in critical situations.

Volvo is well-advanced in self-driving-vehicle technology, offering a system of low-speed autonomy in traffic jams. It is working with its hometown of Gotenburg to develop cars by 2016 that will drive themselves on the ring road encircling the city, says Thomas Ingenlath, senior vice president-design.

The XC Coupe concept is more of a shooting brake (wagon) than a coupe, its two doors being the only coupe-like element. The big concept car even has a luggage rack on top. That said, the XC Coupe does share many design cues indicating the new direction for the brand.

“Volvo is about strong, clear architectural lines,” Ingenlath says.

The concept retains the prominent rear shoulders of recent Volvos, but it adds distinctive features that will help people identify a car as a Volvo without having to look at the logo on the grille.

Headlamps are designed with a glowing white T-shaped insert that Ingenlath refers to as “Thor’s hammer.” Taillights are formed to resemble sickles. A decorative creased dent curves over each wheel well. While the line serves no function, “It looks great in natural light outdoors,” he says.