Executive Says Chinese Ownership Gives Volvo More Freedom

Volvo Cars and parent company Geely have expanded use of shared modular EV architectures; enhanced collaboration in autonomous and electric drive technologies; and aimed to jointly procure some components to cut costs.

Alysha Webb, Contributor

December 28, 2022

3 Min Read
Volvo EX90 (002)
EX90 is Volvo Cars’ first fullsize battery-electric SUV.Volvo Cars

When Geely Holding Group acquired Volvo Cars from Ford in 2010, just how the Chinese and Swedish companies would mesh was unclear. More than a decade later, Chinese ownership has helped change Volvo from a  money-losing albatross to a trend-setting electric-vehicle manufacturer.

With the announcement of its stylish EX90 battery-electric  SUV, the Swedish automaker is signaling its future direction in design and technology. In some ways, the vehicle was made possible by the Geely acquisition.

 Erik Severinson (pictured, below left), head of strategy and program management at Volvo Cars, tells Wards that Chinese ownership has two big benefits: Much more access to the China market and more freedom. We have a lot of freedom as a brand to develop our own products,” he says.  

In February 2021, Volvo and Geely announced a swath of areas in which they would more closely cooperate.

Erik Severinson Volvo Cars_Leader_in_Industrial_Strategy.jpg

Erik Severinson Volvo Cars_Leader_in_Industrial_Strategy

The companies expanded use of shared modular EV architectures; enhanced collaboration in autonomous and electric drive technologies; and aimed to jointly procure some components to cut costs.

Powertrain operations were combined in a new company focused on “next-generation hybrid systems and internal-combustion engines” while the parent companies maintained independent corporate structures. Geely is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Volvo is listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm.

Spinning off the ICE operations into a stand-alone company has had far-reaching consequences, says Severinson. Volvo announced in March 2021 that it would phase out all internal-combustion-engine models, including hybrids, from its portfolio by 2030 and produce only all-electric vehicles.

Shedding the ICE portion “allows our organization to focus wholeheartedly on electrification,” says Severinson. “What we have learned is, the focus it creates in the engineering and production is fantastic.”

The move also helped both manufacturers create economies of scale in ICE development and production, an area that will be a smaller and smaller part of the automotive industry, he says.

Increasingly stiffer emissions requirements will require more investment in ICE technology. By pooling the two combustion-engine production units, “we can still have a very competitive cost,”  Severinsonsays.

Besides the new ICE company, Volvo and Geely will cooperate “where it makes sense,” he says. For example, they jointly own the Polestar  BEV performance brand. And they are finding “synergies” in the small-car segment because Geely has more small models in its portfolio.

Chinese automakers are racing ahead on the connected-car front because Chinese consumers demand a much higher degree of what Severinson calls “smartification” in their vehicles.

Collaborating with Geely in that area has been a “great strength” for Volvo in the Chinese market, he says. However,  that hasn’t translated into a competitive advantage in Volvo’s other markets.

“We are not seeing exactly the same customer behavior in Europe and the U.S.,”  Severinson says.. “Chinese are valuing computational power; the European and U.S. (consumers) are a bit more traditional.”

Geely has its own Zeekr all-electric brand and Volvo has its SEA electric platform. The two manufacturers are “trying to find synergies wherever it makes sense without jeopardizing anything that makes a Volvo a Volvo and a Zeekr a Zeekr,” says Severinson.

China is the primary source of many upstream components related to electrification, but the increasingly regionalized view of the world is making that less of an advantage for sourcing than it might have been in the past, he says.

Volvo hasn’t been hindered by its supply-chain ties to China, however. It is an opportunity for Volvo’s production in China, Severinson says.

“But we have to find regional sources in Europe. We are striving to have local production as much as possible. (Our strategy is) build where you sell and source where you build.”

About the Author(s)

Alysha Webb


Based in Los Angeles, Alysha Webb has written about myriad aspects of the automotive industry for more than than two decades, including automotive retail, manufacturing, suppliers, and electric vehicles. She began her automotive journalism career in China and wrote reports for Wards Intelligence on China's electric vehicle future and China's autonomous vehicle future. 

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