CHICAGO – The Chinese ownership of the Volvo brand has had no ill effect on the European auto maker's business, says John Maloney, president of Volvo Cars of North America.
Volvo was acquired by Geely Motors on Aug 1, 2010.
While some consumers don't take kindly to China, especially its politics, Maloney says Volvo sales rose 25% in the U.S. and 20% globally last year, with no sign of negative impact from its Chinese affiliation.
Geely management leaves Volvo alone, Maloney says in an interview at the annual auto show here. "The only time we interact is at board meetings. It's clear they're letting Volvo be Volvo."
Consumers have no qualms, he says. "Whenowned Volvo, no one paid attention to Ford’s ownership, and no one pays attention to Geely’s ownership. As long as Volvo is recognized as a Scandinavian company, no one cares."
Meanwhile, Volvo is launching a new focus on its cars this year.
"Ask people, and when (they’re) talking about Volvo, 95% say safety. But in our ads this year for the S60, the emphasis is on design and driving dynamics and performance. We'll never give up on safety, but with a 325-hp., 6-cyl. turbocharged engine, our 0-60 mph (97 km/h) performance time is as good as the Japanese luxury cars."
So will S60 ads feature the car with radials smoking? "With our dynamic stability control, you won't see a Volvo doing burnouts anytime soon," Maloney quips.
However, in the interest of looming fuel-economy legislation, Volvo’s fleet in the near future only will offer 4-cyl. engines.
“We’ll intro the new 4-cyls. at the end of 2013, but it will be 2016-2017 before the end of 5- and 6-cyl. engines in our lineup,” Maloney says. “We aren't into 500-hp engines, but you can do 300 hp with a turbo 4-cyl. with an electric assist."
Asked about North American production, Maloney says: “We're working on that and evaluating it."