A quiet storm from Sweden to suburbia

PETER YORK ON ADS: No 79: VOLVO 850 T-5
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The Independent Culture
TIME was, you knew where you stood with Volvo, the car that made a virtue of its sensible - some might say valetudinarian - appeals. Volvo defined and occupied a niche market, and became a critical determinant of the stereotype of a certain sort of person. We felt we'd pretty well summed up the type just by saying "Volvo driver". The ads consistently reinforced our view. And that seems to have created a problem for Volvo, to judge by the new 850 T-5 commercial.

Coming after their "American stuntman" this new spectacular aims to re-focus the central "given" about Volvo, its rugged construction, into an altogether more hip and manly brand personality; the tough car used by tough pros for tough jobs in that toughest of places, Big Country America. Think Jeep, think Marlboro and absolutely don't think Stockholm, NW1, Posy Simmonds, readers of this newspaper or anything remotely bourgeois, careful or celebral.

So we have "Tornado", with out there looks somewhere between the burning of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind and the moun-tain men in Deliverance. A big blazing sky, rough country folk and a hard-faced, hard-voiced official Dangerman telling us about the technical and emotional specification of tornadoes. The effects are straight out of a disaster movie: shacks explode and cave in most convincingly. Trees and oil barrels blow across roads, people scatter and lightning strikes practically everything. They're big effects, it's big music and it's very big colour.

And nosing in manfully through all this chaos is the dark Volvo, showing it's well hard. "It moves like it's on rails ... we have to depend on a vehicle for our lives," says the Tornado Ranger. "A car you can believe in," says the screen. But for those of us who'd been persuaded of Volvo's sensible case over two decades there may well be a moment of confusion.

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