Volvo‘s fleet sales look set to beat the economic downturn thanks to measures introduced over the past two years.

Volvo was one of only a handful of car makers who saw significantly increased fleet business in 2008. The Swedish brand ended the year up 32% at 21,360 cars sold.

These figures are more impressive because Volvo cut its rental, demo and own-use registrations (included in fleet sales) by 26% in 2008.

Volvo corporate sales and leasing boss John Wallace attributed the sales hike to several key improvements implemented in the past two years.

“Our objective was to improve optical competitiveness, in other words, one example was that we moved our SE trim level so it was in line with our competitors,” he said.

Previously, buyers dismissed S40s and V50s because they appeared, at first glance, to be more expensive than rival vehicles. However, once standard specification was taken into account the Volvos were better value.

To solve this issue Volvo removed a few items from the standard spec and lowered the price of its cars.

As well as adjusted specs, which also included the successful introduction of the R-design trim level, Wallace also attributes the sales win to new lower CO2 engines.

Volvo has added the efficient 2.0-litre diesel from parent firm Ford to many of its cars, giving it an offering in fleet that previously didn’t exist.

Looking ahead Wallace said: “We’ve already had massive fleet interest for the low-CO2 Driv-e range.”

As previously reported in BusinessCar, Volvo also plans to introduce a new D5 engine to the S80, a front-drive XC60 and further work to reduce CO2 outputs to improve capital allowance “tax competitiveness after the April fiscal changes”.