North America will be the biggest market for the second-generation Volvo S80, amid global sales expectations of 50,000 units annually of the all-new flagship.

Last year, U.S. sales of the S80 totaled 10,181, according to Ward's data, a 24% decline from 2004.

Volvo Cars officials are forecasting flat sales in the U.S. for 2006, but growth for Ford Motor Co.'s Swedish unit in 2007 based on the strength of new models.

The car maker is planning to launch nine new models in the next 16 months, including the S80, redesigned S60, the new compact C30 and a cross/utility vehicle smaller than the XC90.

'07 Volvo S80

Volvo also reportedly will decide later this year whether to begin vehicle assembly in China.

The S80 is slated to go on sale in Europe midyear and reach U.S. showrooms by the end of 2006. The sedan becomes Volvo's first to offer a V-8 engine (the Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd.-built engine used in the XC90) and 4-wheel drive. (See related story: '07 Volvo S80 to Debut in Geneva)

A new inline 6-cyl. engine also makes its debut and, like the V-8, is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Meanwhile, Volvo names Steven Armstrong chief operating officer from his current position as head of purchasing. Armstrong will oversee daily operations in the areas of purchasing, manufacturing, quality and research and development. Fredrik Arp remains CEO.

Taking over as senior vice president-purchasing is Albie van Buel, while Magnus Jonsson replaces the retiring Hans Folkesson as senior vice presidnet-R&D.

Arp says Volvo is focusing on quality and efficiency to reach its goal of 600,000 global sales annually by 2009, up from about 440,000 in 2005.