Sensible ‘Saint’ turns to Volvo for wheels

Batman had his Batmobile, James Bond had his Aston Martin – and more recently, his BMW Z3 – and “The Saint’s” suave Simon Templar has his … Volvo?

Yes, the Swedish automaker, whose sturdy, sensible cars have come to epitomize safety-conscious yuppie-dom, is embarking on a $5 million-plus tie-in campaign with Paramount to launch its sporty new C70 coupe – and hopefully earn itself a slightly racier image at the same time.

Paramount and Volvo’s cross-promotional efforts will include national and local TV spots and print ads, as well as promotions at auto shows, in-dealer displays and a Web site.

The globe-trotting thief Templar (Val Kilmer) drives the C70 in several scenes in the film. It’s actually the second pairing of “The Saint’s” hero and Volvo; in the 1960s TV version Roger Moore drove a Volvo P1800 coupe.

The upcoming Phillip Noyce-helmed bigscreen version, which is co-financed by Rysher Entertainment, currently is scheduled to open around March 14, although the C70 won’t be available until sometime in June.

The car, which Volvo unveiled at the Paris Auto Show in October, is a “rather swoopy two-door, four-seater” which will sell for between $40,000 and $45,000 according to Robert Austin, director of marketing communications at Volvo Cars of North America.

“It’s a segment of the market Volvo has not participated in,” he said. “One which is being pursued not for its volume potential but for its image enhancement.”

Volvo wants to add an air of stylishness and performance to its current image of safety, durability and longevity, he added.

“Everybody thinks that if you don’t have McDonald’s or Burger King, you can’t open big. We’ve proved them wrong with ‘Mission: Impossible’ and Apple (Computer) and a $75 million, six-day opening,” Par marketing president Arthur Cohen said.

“The Saint,” which also stars Elisabeth Shue, is produced by David Brown, Robert Evans, Williams J. Macdonald and Mace Neufeld.

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