Sat, Feb 26, 2011 - Page 11 News List

Volvo to invest US$11bn, expand China production

E-VOLV-ING:Chief executive Stefan Jacoby said the firm was in the middle of a big transformation as it shifts the focus of its success away from Europe and toward China

AFP, BEIJING

Chinese-owned carmaker Volvo said yesterday it hopes to become a global luxury brand and turn China into a major manufacturing base by investing US$11 billion over the next five years.

The Sweden-based firm, which was bought by China’s Geely (吉利) last year, plans to build a new assembly plant in the Chinese city of Chengdu and possibly another in Daqing as it expands its China operations, chief executive Stefan Jacoby told reporters.

Volvo wants to boost annual sales to 800,000 cars globally by 2020 — more than double the 373,000 sold last year — with half of that growth coming from China, the world’s biggest auto market, Jacoby said.

The company said it also aims to have 20 percent of the Chinese luxury car market by 2015, but did not provide a figure for its current share.

“We are committed to make a success here in China,” Jacoby told reporters.

“We’re in the middle of a big transition — a big transformation. We are redefining the brand,” he said in an earlier interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Geely, which bought Volvo from Ford in August for US$1.5 billion, said in September it planned to increase Volvo sales to 300,000 cars a year in China alone.

Jacoby said, however, the China target was 200,000 units by 2015, nearly seven times the 30,500 sold last year.

Geely chairman Li Shufu (李書福), who is also Volvo chairman, said yesterday the Swedish company was considering building a third assembly plant, possibly in eastern China.

“[This year] is a very crucial year for Volvo and we are committed to provide very attractive products and first-class services to our customers in China,” Li told reporters. “A more global, luxurious Volvo is in front of us.”

Volvo expects early 2013 to see the first cars rolling off the assembly line in Chengdu, which will have an initial capacity of about 100,000 units a year, Jacoby said. No details were provided on the Daqing plant.

A new model will be produced at the Chengdu plant, senior vice president of public affairs Olle Axelson said.

Volvo also plans to set up a head office and research and development center in Shanghai as well as expand the company’s dealership network to 220 from the current 106.

“We know our success in China is crucial to our success around the world,” Jacoby said.

Volvo was also considering exporting cars from China to the rest of Asia, as well as to North and South America, Axelson said. In Europe, Volvo plans to increase sales to 380,000 cars a year from the 242,000 it sold last year and more than double sales in the US to 120,000 units a year, Jacoby told the Wall Street Journal.

Volvo hopes markets such as Russia, Brazil and India will drive global sales outside China, the US and Europe to 100,000 cars a year from the 46,500 it sold last year in those markets.

Hong Kong-listed shares in Geely slipped 0.3 percent to HK$3.29 (US$0.42) in Friday trade, while the broader market closed up 1.82 percent.

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