By on December 14, 2009

Outside a Geely factory (courtesy: NY Times)

Responding to calls by Volvo’s unions for an investigation of Geely, Volvo management is calling the unions’ statements “almost xenophobic.” CEO Stephen Odell, and Personell Manager Björn Sällström of Volvo Cars have sent out letter to their empolyees, urging to modify their attitude towards their potential new employer, Geely. The letter is a response, not only to the unions’ public demand for a Geely investigation, but also the fact that these statements have sparked quite an anti-Chinese-business-methods campaign in readers’ letters to Swedish medias.

Says Sällström in his letter: “Comments come from both external and internal “judges” and gives Volvo Cars and its trademark a negative sound.”
Sällström tells The Gothenburg Post that the unions’ tone is almost xenophobic. “Volvo Cars is a multicultural company where diversity is an important element. We operate globally and exclude none,” his letter he continues. “It is of great importance that we maintain our ethics and morality at the highest levels so as not to risk our business.”

CEO Odell states in his letter that he understands that a question of ownership creates debate, raises questions and leads to speculations and noted that the unions want a number of questions answered.

“I respect and understand this desire, and have therefore agreed to have Volvo Cars, for a period, finance an employee-consultant to elucidate an eventual deal” Odell writes. This consultant is already on the job. A timetable has not been set, but Odell writes that he sees it important that the unions have their information before the deal moves. Which makes it unlikely that a deal will be nailed this year.

The union, on the other hand do not agree with these allegations. Magnus Sundemo, chairman of Swedish Engineers at Volvo PV tells the GP he’s saddened by such statements: “I’ve been working with immigrant children for 15 years, I’ve sung gospel with black people in Chicago, and met some of my heroes there. As a person, I’m offended by this “production of xenophobia,” he says.

The only thing we want is maximum transparency. What and who is behind Geely? Why establish business at Cayman Islands? Do they understand the brand? Do they respect Volvo’s values? These questions are important to 20.000 Volvo employees. I’ve never said anything is wrong with Geely, and I don’t think it’s an attack on the Chinese people or expression of xenophobia. To avoid misunderstandings, we’ve sent a letter to Geely’s Chairman Li, through their representatives in Sweden, which clearly clarifies this position.

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