More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – Volvo Car Corp. is developing a “C-minus” segment car for global release in 2006 spawned off an abbreviated version of its S40 sedan’s C1 architecture, Ford Motor Co. Chief Technical Officer Richard Parry-Jones tells Ward’s at the North American International Auto Show here.

He says the new vehicle comes as a result of efficiencies found during the development of vehicles off the same architecture that recently were launched into Ford, Mazda Motor Corp. and Volvo Cars’ lineups worldwide.

The small-car program is dubbed the C30 and will draw heavily from recent Volvo concept cars for its exterior design.

C30’s design will borrow from 3CC concept.

It was announced at the Detroit show by Volvo President Hans-Olav Olsson, who last year told Ward’s the Swedish auto maker was studying a car to slot below the hot-selling S40, especially to establish success in Asia, where the auto maker is struggling. (See related story: Volvo Drives to Sales Record; Studies New Flagship)

“The C30 is going to be off the same set of modular technologies as the (European Ford) Focus, Volvo S40 and Mazda3,” Parry-Jones says. “It’s more a C-minus (segment car) than B/C-segment.”

Parry-Jones cautions against sticking the C1 “platform” in a box that assumes it is a single chassis that has to be slightly modified for various model programs.

“It’s a much smarter idea than the 15-year-old platform idea,” he says. “This is more like Lego (toys), where you’re collaborating to create a set of basic modules – front-end modules, floor-pan modules, a rear module. There’s two or three special modules for the front and the rear, a power-pack module” and more. (See related story: Ford Shifts to ‘Power-Pack’ Strategy)

“Obviously, one advantage is economies of scale. The other big advantage is you free up R&D product development capacity” to improve car programs or create additional products that otherwise might not have been built, he says.

Mark Fields, executive vice president in charge of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, tells Ward’s the C30 is being “seriously considered” as a likely candidate for the U.S. market, where Volvo set another sales record in 2004 due to the successful launch of the S40 and V50 wagon derivative and the continued popularity of the XC90 cross/utility vehicle.

However, Volvo officials confirm to Ward's the C30 is coming to the U.S.

Fields says it was essential Volvo’s new car be spawned from existing Ford resources, rather than an entirely new platform.

“The key these days is making sure the key drivers in the business (remain) engineering development, powertrain development and overall purchasing and economies of scale,” he says.

“We’re working very hard within the group to make sure we work through these shared technologies and also leverage our global purchasing buy.”

jstoll@primediabusiness.com