Volvo Proudly Bringing No Cars to AutoMobility LA

Volvo has decided not to bring any vehicles to AutoMobility LA, the tech-focused preamble to the Los Angeles Auto Show. The reason? The brand says it’s not an auto show, despite the word auto being in the title. Volvo claims the industry is changing and so are the expectations of the people who use them. While this may be true to some extent, many people still expect carmakers to promote their cars and aren’t likely to swayed by mobility jargon or a rotating centerpiece that solidifies Volvo’s narrative.

Earlier this week, we mentioned Volvo’s launch of a social media campaign that includes a photograph of a phone displaying text reading “this is not a phone.” The gambit effectively built intrigue for the show, but the campaign will continue in LA — resulting in a display featuring “a number of interactive demonstrations of connectivity services, such as in-car delivery, car sharing, [and Volvo’s] vision for autonomous driving.” But no cars.

The automaker certainly seems pleased with its decision. But we can’t help noticing that the whole affair feels a little like a child who forgot to do a book report and decided to try and ad lib something flashy in front of the class.

“By calling the trade show Automobility LA, the organizers have recognized the disruption affecting our industry,” said Mårten Levenstam, senior vice president responsible for product strategy at Volvo Cars. “We want to demonstrate that we got the memo and start a conversation about the future of automobility. So instead of bringing a concept car, we talk about the concept of a car. We will not win the ‘car of the show’ award this year, but we are comfortable with that. Because this is not a car show.”

Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo, had more buzz terms on offer, but also something substantive. “Our industry is changing. Rather than just building and selling cars, we will really provide our customers with the freedom to move in a personal, sustainable and safe way,” he said. “We offer our customers access to a car, including new attractive services whenever and wherever they want it.”

Did you catch it? Ignore all the stuff about sustainability and movement and read it again. Volvo is talking about offering access and services. That’s what’s changing within the industry. It won’t be self-driving cars or even electrification; the next big thing will be in-car services from vehicles that are perpetually connected to the internet.

Still, it’s not evident what new services Volvo plans to promote in Los Angeles. Photos of its event space show a setup for Amazon Key and the Care by Volvo subscription plan, neither of which are new programs.

[Images: Volvo Cars]

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