Volvo Says 'Brainlifts' And Not Facelifts Will Become The New Norm

Technology / 7 Comments

Is a smarter car more important than a sexier one?

Traditional car facelifts that emphasize cosmetic updates may give way to "brainlifts" with a greater focus on software, according to Volvo chief commercial officer and deputy CEO Bjorn Annwall. Speaking to CarExpert, Annwall said that consumers are gradually placing more emphasis on improvements made to vehicle interiors, which makes sense considering the infiltration of technology in modern vehicles.

For years, facelifts have often been little more than marketing exercises to bring attention to models as they age, but upgraded software can tangibly improve the driving and ownership experience. Earlier this week, Audi design boss Marc Lichte expressed similar sentiments, saying that interior design will increase in importance.

"I think 'brainlifts' are going to be more important than facelifts," said Annwall. "Get the right core [computing] and the right kind of intelligence [in] the car. That's going to be more important."

2024 Volvo EX90 Driver Area Volvo

Last year, Volvo revealed the new EX90 electric SUV, and much of the conversation revolved around its advanced human-machine interface that sets new benchmarks for in-car connectivity. Using Unreal Engine 5 3D graphic software that's integrated with the vehicle's driver-assistance features, Volvo can more easily develop new features and add them to existing vehicles than has been possible previously.

"The model of having a car will change," continued Annwall. "I think more of the consumer benefit will sit in the software rather than the hardware."

Annwall also spoke of Volvo following others like BMW by charging subscriptions for select software-based features, but he clarified that these would only be for valuable add-ons for the driver and not features that should already be standard in a premium vehicle. "Our firm view is that you were not going to skin our customers $1 for a small feature," he said. "For instance, a full AD [autonomous driving] function would be an example where I think customers would accept [subscriptions]."

2024 Volvo EX90 Central Console Volvo

Going back to exterior design, we can see how the Volvo EX90 already supports the philosophy explained by Annwall. It looks like it could easily be an evolutionary upgrade of the XC90, but under the skin and inside, it's a far more advanced vehicle.

If any brand is in need of one of these 'brainlifts,' it may just be Volkswagen. In an interview with VW of America last year, the automaker admitted that software niggles have plagued the automaker and frustrated customers. Improvements have been implemented for some models, and these ultimately have a far greater impact on the ownership experience than a tweaked headlight design or some new wheels.

We expect Volvo's hyper-focused approach to software will be felt in a big way across the industry over the next few years.

2024 Volvo EX90 Charging Point Volvo

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