Question of the Day: Does National Ownership Matter?

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman

I'm not talking about Hugo Chavez-style ownership. My question was inspired by the rumor that China's Chery might be buying Volvo. Is this a big deal? Despite Ford's worst efforts, Volvo didn't lose too much of its Volvoness when Ford CEO Jac the Knife won the Swedish automaker in a game of bondtolva. Volvos are still [presumably] safe, boxy and not intended for hoons. Of course, Ford almost bought Ferrari, which surely would have strangled the fabled Italian marque in Dearborn's corporate tentacles. And Saab lost its soul the moment GM breathed on it. But how about Rolls-Royce? I say the company is better than ever under Bimmer's tutelage. Audi's done a bang-up job with Bentley and Lamborghini, too. The world didn't stop turning when India's Tata Motors bought Land Rover and Jaguar. And the fact that a group of Saudi businessmen own Aston is no impediment to the brand, apparently. So what's the big deal about a Chinese automaker buying Volvo? Anything? Everything?

Jonny Lieberman
Jonny Lieberman

Cleanup driver for Team Black Metal V8olvo.

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  • Nudave Nudave on Jul 10, 2008

    National ownership should only matter to zenophobes and bigots. And anyway, Budweiser might actually turn into beer when the Belgian brewmasters show up.

  • Jordan Tenenbaum Jordan Tenenbaum on Jul 10, 2008

    I'm okay with Volvo being sold, just NOT to the Chinese. I just see them completely decimating the marque.

  • 86er 86er on Jul 10, 2008

    Alright, all this fawning over Japanese workmanship has prompted me to put in a plug for Canadian-built vehicles. Maybe not Japanese-grade, but generally well-regarded. (There you go, Mikey)

  • NN NN on Jul 10, 2008

    Yes, this matters incredibly. Robert, your reasoning was very well put. Here's my two cents... China is very much like the US in many ways. I have lived in both countries and know them both well. We are both insular nations, which has a lot to do with the large geographic and population size of both. The Chinese maintain many of the same aspects that the masses of Americans maintain, aspects noted by most Europeans (and others who frequently interact with other nations/cultures/languages/customs) as ignorance. American auto companies have mismanaged nearly all the foreign companies they've bought. The Germans, as noted here, are much better at it. The Japanese & Koreans are probably quite insular themselves but they don't tend to venture acquisitions outside of their own culture. I think Chinese ownership of foreign firms will be very much like, if not worse, than US ownership. There is a long learning curve on behalf of the Chinese to understand the Swedish culture and make sure the cars reflect that. Unless they are 100% hands off in product development (which they won't be--they'll be out to cut costs and source Chinese parts), Chinese ownership of Volvo will fail the brand. I think foreign brand ownership is something that by nature the Europeans will always be better at.