Geely, Volvo tar­get mar­ket with China-built lux­ury car

Chi­nese au­tomak­ers gear­ing up for ex­port

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Volvo Cars and its Chi­nese owner are gear­ing up to ex­port more premium cars to world mar­kets. Out­lin­ing its lat­est strat­egy yes­ter­day, Volvo un­veiled up­graded ver­sions of its up­scale S90 sedan range, which will be man­u­fac­tured en­tirely in China for ex­port, sig­nal­ing grow­ing con­fi­dence in its Chi­nese pro­duc­tion base. De­sign touches on some of the S90 mod­els also high­lighted Volvo’s fo­cus on the vi­tal Chi­nese auto mar­ket. Most no­tably, a “su­per lux­ury” ver­sion re­places the front pas­sen­ger seat with a touch­screen con­sole, with space to store shoes un­der­neath, a fea­ture clearly aimed at China’s chauf­feur-driven ex­ec­u­tives.

Volvo and its par­ent com­pany Geely also an­nounced plans for a fac­tory to make com­pact cars based on a new shared plat­form, in­clud­ing ve­hi­cles for Geely’s just-launched “con­nected car” brand, Lynk & Co. It’s part of Volvo Cars’ ef­forts to com­pete with other lux­ury car brands both glob­ally and within China, the world’s No. 1 mar­ket, after it was bought by Zhe­jiang Geely Hold­ings in 2010. “We have a strong man­u­fac­tur­ing struc­ture in China and we are geared up for fur­ther growth on this key mar­ket,” Volvo CEO Hakan Sa­muels­son told re­porters.

The new plant will pro­duce Volvo’s new 40 series based on its Com­pact Mod­u­lar Ar­chi­tec­ture plat­form, which will also be used for Lynk & Co ve­hi­cles, a brand Geely launched last month. The fac­tory, cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion in Luqiao, 350 kilo­me­ters (220 miles) south of Shang­hai, is owned by Geely but will be op­er­ated by Volvo. The plat­form is one of just two un­der­pin­ning Volvo’s en­tire lineup. They give the com­pany flex­i­bil­ity to build a wide range of ve­hi­cle sizes and body styles, help­ing it com­pete with big­ger ri­vals.

Volvo added a long wheel­base ver­sion of its top-of-the-line S90 sedan as well as the “su­per lux­ury” Ex­cel­lence edi­tion aimed at China’s chauf­feured busi­ness class, who typ­i­cally de­sire a more spa­cious back­seat. The S90 Ex­cel­lence’s “lounge con­sole” with its touch­screen mon­i­tor on re­tractable arms takes all of the front pas­sen­ger side. The car comes with a panoramic sun­roof and hand­made Swedish crys­tal glasses. Sa­muels­son said the two new ver­sions “will be the most lux­u­ri­ous cars ever pro­duced in China” when Volvo’s two-year-old plant in Daqing, Hei­longjiang prov­ince starts mak­ing the S90 range in the com­ing months. “The fact that these cars will be ex­clu­sively built in China for the global mar­ket demon­strates the qual­ity of our Chi­nese fac­to­ries,” he said.

An­other Volvo fac­tory in Chengdu in cen­tral Sichuan prov­ince pro­duces mid­size S60 cars, which the com­pany started ex­port­ing last year to the United States. With only a few thou­sand ve­hi­cles dis­patched an­nu­ally from China, “the num­ber of Volvos go­ing to the US is still small. But the im­por­tant take­away is that ship­ping to the US means Volvo China op­er­a­tions have achieved world-class qual­ity,” said Michael Dunne, pres­i­dent of Hong Kong-based in­vest­ment ad­vi­sory firm Dunne Au­to­mo­tive .

Geely Chair­man Li Shufu’s de­ci­sion to give Volvo man­age­ment am­ple in­de­pen­dence has paid off, he added. Last year Volvo oper­at­ing prof­its tripled and ve­hi­cle sales sur­passed half a mil­lion units for the first time. “Now Ger­man lux­ury mak­ers are tak­ing a closer look at their com­ing chal­lenger,” Dunne said. Volvo’s fac­to­ries in Gothen­burg, Swe­den and Ghent, Bel­gium will con­tinue to make sedans, hatch­backs and sport-util­ity ve­hi­cles in all three model ranges. It’s also build­ing a plant in South Carolina to make mid­sized ve­hi­cles. — AP

SHANG­HAI: Jour­nal­ists take a close look at the new S90 Volvo car in Shang­hai, China, yes­ter­day. Volvo Cars and its Chi­nese owner are revving up their pro­file as they fo­cus on sell­ing premium cars in world mar­kets. — AP

SHANG­HAI: Li Shufu, Chair­man of Zhe­jiang Geely Hold­ings, poses for pho­tos in a new S90 Volvo car in Shang­hai, China yes­ter­day. — AP

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