Volvo is planning a slow start to the fleet sales of its new S60 as it waits for the arrival of the low-CO2 Driv-e version in March 2011.

The Volvo S60 range will initially launch in September with two diesels – a 162hp 2.0 and 204hp 2.4 – and one high-power petrol engine. However, neither diesel compares well on paper to the market-leading BMW 3-series for CO2 and mpg.

Volvo believes the 1.6 diesel Driv-e version will change this with a predicted CO2 of 115g/km and a combined consumption of 65.7mpg.

“We’re going to promote the 2.0-litre diesel auto in fleet – it’s priced competitively to push it with fleet,” said Peter Rask, Volvo UK MD, commenting on how the Swedish brand plans to sell the S60 to business car drivers ahead of the Driv-e model.

Despite a predicted slow start for the S60, Volvo expects total fleet sales to support the overall market for the rest of the year.

Rask said that while he hoped that retail sales would remain strong following the cessation of the scrappage scheme, he expected the market to decline over the rest of 2010.

“We see retail sales slowing and fleet coming up. This year we’re up 78% in retail and 38% up in fleet and the split is 50/50 at the moment,” said Rask, who stopped short of predicting where the fleet/retail split would be at the end of the year.

Rask also believed there would be a pull forward of sales into the fourth quarter of the year as those customers buying more expensive cars move to avoid the higher 20% rate of VAT, which comes into force in January.

Talking about the S60, he added that the car’s styling, interior quality and the fact that “it’s not a 3-series” would also appeal to user-choosers.

Predicted sales of the S60 this year stand at 2400, according to European product and pricing manager Chris Wailes. He then expects to sell nearly 10,000 S60s next year with 70% of these going to fleets.

Rask added: “Two out of three S60 customers will be new to Volvo. We’ve set our sights on Audi and Mercedes, but a lot will come from the VW Passat, Toyota Avensis and Ford Mondeo too.”

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