Are You Ready For: An American Volvo?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

The national character of auto brands is a tricky thing. For decades, Volvo wore its Swedishness on its sleeve, emphasizing the values that made Ikea, Abba and Swedish porn so popular in the US… even when it was an outpost of the Ford empire. And then the unthinkable happened: Chinese up-and-comer Li Shufu bought the brand and rolled it into his Geely empire. In the world of national-character-branding, being bought by a Chinese firm is something like hiring Casey Anthony as a brand ambassador, or using a mascot called “Mr Melamine Milk” (another nightmare scenario can be found here). So, how does a brand like Volvo, that was built on Swedishness, get past the “China Factor”? By doubling down on Swedishness? How about by building cars in the US?

Volvo’s Stephan Jacoby has opened the door to just that possibility, telling Bloomberg [via Automotive News [sub]]

One weakness of Volvo cars is the exposure to the U.S. dollar, so we are investigating increasing our sourcing in North America. The utmost solution would be to have a North American industrial footprint. We haven’t made up our mind.

OK, so currency exchange is the overriding business factor, but on a secondary level, building cars in the US would override any concerns American consumers might have about buying a made-in-China Volvo. For years now, the industry has fretted that the rise of Chinese automakers would be accompanied by waves of cheap, Chinese-built exports wiping out traditional brands on sheer cost alone. That Li and Jacoby are talking about building a US plant confirms that Chinese ascendancy need not follow the worst possible scenarios of industrial realpolitik. And as Sweden’s other automaker circles the drain, making Volvo a more global brand by assembling in Europe, China and the US is another triumph of reason over “automotive nationalism.”

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Forty2 Forty2 on Sep 14, 2011

    jadnhm: Volvo had a plant in Halifax from 1963-1998.

    • Jadnhm Jadnhm on Sep 16, 2011

      I know! I noted this in another post. I actually grew up about an hour away from Halifax. See, it's a great idea! It worked for 35 years, seems like it might be worth a shot!

  • Gt40fan Gt40fan on Sep 15, 2011

    It's my opinion that where the owner of a company is based out of or where a product is produced has little impact on sales success of that product (from the buyers' perception standpoint). Product design/quality, pricing, brand-image (marketing) is all far more influential. Volvo is having good success in NA with their new S60 and XC60 while being owned 100 percent by Chinese. I think this makes good conversation amongst the relatively small group of people that read and contribute to places like this but not to the masses that are shopping for cars. Same goes for pretty much every other product. Case-in-point, an article was posted here about the new Maseratti SUV where the writer was supporting a case for its success. It will be built in Detroit and based off a Jeep Grand Cherokee platform and potentially using a fair amount from the Chrysler parts bin. Still, it is projected as being a successful seller.

  • Ted Lulis Head gaskets and Toyota putting my kids through college👍️
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
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  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.