Volvo to Invest $11 Billion Over Next Five Years

Wants to double production by 2020

Chinese-owned car maker Volvo said on Feb. 25 it hopes to become a global luxury brand and turn China into a major manufacturing base by investing $11 billion over the next five years.

The Sweden-based firm, which was bought by China's Geely last year, plans to build a new assembly plant in the southwestern city of Chengdu and possibly another in northeastern Daqing as it expands its China operations, chief executive Stefan Jacoby said.

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.

Geely, which bought Volvo from Ford in August for $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.

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

"We're in the middle of a big transition -- a big transformation. We are redefining the brand," Jacoby said in an earlier interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Geely chairman Li Shufu, who is also Volvo chairman, said the Swedish company was considering building a third assembly plant, possibly in eastern China. "2011 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," said Li. "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.

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 United States 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 United States and Europe to 100,000 cars a year from the 46,500 it sold last year in those markets.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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