DETROIT -- Volvo showed its new S90 -- and a reborn company -- last week at the Detroit auto show.
Five years after being sold by Ford Motor Co., Volvo set a global sales record last year, topping 500,000 vehicles. Freed from Ford's hierarchy and with the blessing of its Chinese parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Volvo has evolved from a struggling brand to an agile company mapping its own future. It can work faster and make decisions more freely, Volvo executives say.
Now the goal, says Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson, is to gain credibility as a luxury brand and within a few years, achieve equal standing with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.
"My belief is by 2020 we shall be a true premium alternative, including pricing and everything that requires," Samuelsson said last week in an interview at the auto show here. "We need the time. We have taken steps."
Since Geely acquired Volvo in 2010 and invested $11 billion in the Swedish company, Volvo has:
- Developed a flexible platform to underpin all of its future vehicles except for subcompacts.
- Launched a family of turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engines.
- Redesigned two of its four key vehicles, with plans to replace its current vehicle lineup by 2019.
- Begun developing a small car with Geely for sale in multiple markets including China and the United States.
- Opened two greenfield factories in China.
- Broken ground on its first U.S. factory in South Carolina where the next-generation S60 compact sedan will be built.
- Exported the first China-built car to the United States -- the long-wheelbase S60 Inscription.
- Begun rolling out plug-in hybrid versions of every nameplate.
No need for merger
In the longer term, can Volvo avoid another merger partner as it strives for higher volume? Samuelsson says unequivocally: "Yes."
"We are absolutely confident. We are not seeking a conventional partner, and no one has approached us. And we are happy with that."