Volvo sticks with Uber partnership
High-profile PR disasters won't affect partnership, automaker says
Volvo Cars is standing by its partnership with Uber, despite the ride-hailing company’s string of public relations troubles, including a high-profile accident this weekend that led to Uber temporarily shutting down its self-driving testing program.
On Saturday, Uber suspended its self-driving pilot program -- which uses Volvo XC90 SUVs -- after one of the vehicles crashed in Tempe, Arizona. Given there were no injuries, a Volvo spokesperson said the company had nothing further to add to its past statements on the venture, which include a comment from a press event last week where a spokesman for Volvo said it would “continue to support” Uber.
An Uber spokesperson said there have been no changes to the partnership.
Volvo and Uber announced the $300 million agreement in August, with Volvo providing 100 XC90s for the launch of the Uber’s first autonomous ride-hailing program in Pittsburgh. Since then, the companies have been working together on the hardware side of self-driving systems, which includes technology like redundant braking, and Uber has continued to buy vehicles from the automaker, a Volvo spokesman said.
Despite its growing influence in both the automotive and tech industries, Uber has been at the center of an unrelenting flood of negative headlines in 2017, including issues in Pittsburgh and a lawsuit over its self-driving sensor technology. Since January, Volvo has maintained that its partnership is purely for hardware development, keeping its distance from the company’s public issues.
“They have to deal with those things, and it’s their responsibility,” said Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Car USA, told Automotive News earlier this year following Uber’s clash with California regulators over its self-driving pilot in San Francisco. While it’s unlikely Uber will be able to improve its reputation in the short-term, Volvo has little to lose by continuing to work with the company, said Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific.
“Volvo, at the top, is run by Chinese management, and they see the big picture,” Sullivan said. “Some human resource hiccups, looking 10 or 15 or 20 years down the road, aren’t going to throw this thing off the track.”