GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Despite the merger talk that has swirled around it since an approach by Volkswagen, AB Volvo has just two words for would-be buyers: Not interested!
Tuve Johannesson, president of Volvo Car Corp., said that Volvo has not changed the philosophy it adopted after the company killed a pending merger with France's Renault in 1994: No to equity mergers, but OK to joint ventures for specific products.
'We are very comfortable with that, and that goes for the Volvo board, and Volvo management,' Johannesson said in a telephone interview. 'We think we are doing a good job, and we have no desire to convey anything but that.'
Talks about cooperating with VW have been confined to heavy trucks. Globally, Volvo is a small player in cars, but the world's third-largest manufacturer of heavy trucks.
Volvo Car wants to achieve an annual volume of 500,000 cars in the next four years, compared with just over 386,000 in 1997.
Johannesson said Volvo can reach that target on its own with products in the pipeline or on the drawing board.
The latest model out of the box is the S80 sedan. It is the first of four models based on a new large-car platform.
The S80 goes on sale worldwide this fall.
The other large cars are: a station wagon, which will be introduced next year; a successor to the S70/V70 sedan and wagon, which is due in two years; and a derivative, with all-wheel drive and sport-utility styling cues.
The last vehicle is similar in concept to the present V70 Cross Country wagon.
Volvo's second new platform - for small cars - should appear around 2002. Johannesson said it will introduce at least two models to succeed the present S40 sedan and V40 wagon, now built at the Nedcar joint venture with Mitsubishi Motors in the Netherlands.
Hans Wikman, S80 project director, echoed Johannesson's determination to stay independent.
'We have changed this company a lot since the (aborted) merger with Renault, which set us back in a lot of ways,' he said. 'We will show, we will fix it on our own.'
Johannesson estimated that the S80 costs 15 to 20 percent less to build than the S90 sedan it replaces. And those costs are spread over a bigger volume base.