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Geely faces Volvo image challenge: analysts

The Local · 29 Oct 2009, 09:28

Published: 29 Oct 2009 09:28 GMT+01:00

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US auto giant Ford said on Wednesday it had tapped Zhejiang Geely Holding Group as the preferred bidder for its Volvo Cars nameplate and would step up negotiations with a consortium led by the Chinese automaker.

But analysts warned the takeover was far from being finalised and, even if eventually successful, the independent Chinese automaker would struggle to protect Volvo's image for producing sturdy, reliable cars.

"The biggest concern is whether Geely can manage such a premium global brand," John Zeng, a Shanghai-based analyst at IHS Global Insight, told AFP.

"If Geely wants to keep Volvo's brand independence and integrity, then it had better not get too involved with its operation -- especially not to mix the brand of Geely with Volvo. Geely is targeted at low-end customers."

Eric Xu, head of Timer-Auto Consulting in Shanghai, said a successful acquisition would enhance Geely's image overseas but could hurt Volvo in the process.

"It will be very challenging for Geely to safeguard the value of the (Volvo) brand," Xu told AFP.

"A successful bid is only the first step in a successful acquisition -- it's difficult to digest what you buy. That's the challenging part for Chinese companies who want to go abroad."

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Geely said under its bid, supported by Chinese banks, Volvo's existing production and research and development facilities, union agreements and dealer networks would be maintained.

Geely said on Thursday it was "fully prepared" to make good on the bid to buy Volvo and would "make every effort" to ensure its success.

"We made the big decision to take part in the bidding after careful consideration and assessment. We think it is in line with the long-term development strategy of Geely," Geely spokesman Yuan Xiaolin told AFP, without elaborating.

When asked how long the talks could last, Yuan said it was too soon to speculate about a timeframe. Ford emphasised that "no final decisions had been made".

The Geely spokesman also declined to comment on the financial terms of a possible deal.

Geely's shares soared as much as 4.5 percent in early trade in a weak Hong Kong market on Thursday on the news but later fell back to 2.92 Hong Kong dollars, up 1.7 percent.

Ford announced last December that it wanted to sell the loss-making Volvo unit, which it fully acquired in a $6.4 billion deal in 1999.

Story continues below…

The US automaker did not take government aid to cope with falling sales and avoided bankruptcy this year, unlike rivals General Motors and Chrysler.

It has shed tens of thousands of jobs and closed plants in an effort to cut costs, and sold off the bulk of its luxury European brands, including Jaguar and Aston Martin.

Repairing Volvo's weak balance sheet would be challenging for Geely, Zeng said.

"Volvo has been in the red for years," said Zeng. "Whether Geely can alter its deficit situation remains the key question."

AFP's Allison Jackson

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

21:06 October 29, 2009 by Tobugrynbak
Geely might be good for Ford, but definitely bad for Volvo.

Nothing kills a quality brand than Chinese ownership.
07:53 October 30, 2009 by borgarr
Geely has plenty of Sino-Dollars to alter the deficit situation. Heh.
08:34 October 30, 2009 by Marc the Texan
I think this will be a real loss for Sweden. It would be great if a Swedish white night emerged to save the day.
09:43 October 30, 2009 by pin
To borgarr,

what does Sino mean?

what's the meaning of using this word?

No one really understand Chinese Government here, it is not Geely buying Volvo here, it is actually Chinese Government buying it and you know what Chinese Government hate doing the most? Lose face. Especially when it's such a deal with international influence. So I guess Chinese government will do whatever it takes to make this acquisition success in the future. They may got some problems on the way but they gonna get over it. Chinese government are so good at dealing with this kind of issue when it draws attention from all over the world
12:43 October 30, 2009 by karex
Everyone is assuming that Geely will maintain the brand (or at least try to). I suspect all they want is the technology and will promptly run the company to the groud as its existence after technology transfer then becomes irrelevant. Maintaining that level of quality is expensive - as Ford has found out.

If the purchase goes ahead, some kind of conditional clause should be demanded.
14:51 October 30, 2009 by bjinger
Volvo is a Swedish brand, and it's also a world brand.Swedes started it, American developed it and Chinese will come to help and let it grow stronger. Volvo has lost its cutting-edge in the competitive world either in quality or management that required to meet the public needs. It's not only Swedes can make quality cars, others can do it even better as well. Chinese can probably provide an opportunity to make Volvo a new life, an efective way to the biggest car market in the world.
15:33 October 30, 2009 by spy
It is one thing taking money from savages (Saab) but anotherthing being owned and run by them (Volvo).

Volvo RIP.
19:33 October 30, 2009 by volvoman9
Don't sugar coat it Spy; Tell us how you really feel.Who knows what the future will bring. The Chinese own a lot more of the world than is realized.

The irony of this and many declines of truly great automotive marques is that the very business model that has made them rich will ultimately cause their destruction.

It is no mystery that large corporations are actively engaged in destroying the competition and if you offer a substandard product you will lose market share to the quality brands. Small companies regardless of the value of their product will be run out of business by the larger competitors. We as consumers must demand more yet until we do we will be doomed to accept a steadily declining standard of living for the working class.

The automobile as we know it and the culture that surrounds it is in for a radical change. Those companies that move to adapt the most rapidly will be the ones who succeed.
00:05 October 31, 2009 by spy

Well actually the argument of scale does not hold water - the large companies haven't done too well recently - GM, Chrysler and Ford could not sustain a large business model and will rescale or die. 10 years ago everyone thought you had to be producing millions of cars to make a profit but last year the most profitable car company was Porsche with a mere 85,000.

Anyway the fact remains I would not want to work for a bunch of savages who wouldn't notice if you put square wheels on a car.
08:23 October 31, 2009 by borgarr
To pin,

Sino means China... from the Late Latin phrase "Sinæ," plural for Chinese.

I used it coupled with the dollar to denote that all state-sponsored companies in China are flush with US dollars. The phrase Petro-dollars was a phrase commonly used when discussing large purchases of commercial interests by Saudi Arabia in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Hopefully China Inc. will protect this brand but quality control is not something that Chinese manufacturers are widely known for... maybe they are buying Volvo to change this image.
21:27 October 31, 2009 by Marvino
As a proud owner of 2 Volvos, I hate to see the value of my cars going down the drain because FORD wants to sell the company to GEELY...I question all the newspaper articles who mention Volvo is a money loser when you see the car all over California (where I live) and their sales figures going up. FORD has managed to survive bancruptcy without money from Uncle Sam because they learned how to build better cars compliments of Volvo technology. Now that they bled the brand to death, they sell it....and Odell has the guts to say it is OK for Volvo to be owned by the Chinese...What a world we are living in!!!
00:43 November 1, 2009 by 2394040
It will take some time; probably a number of years, but I would say that Volvo production, at least in Sweden, will cease to exist. The brand could disappear altogether.
04:12 November 1, 2009 by volvoman9
Actually spy I think that this was the point I was trying (poorly) to make. The model of planned obsolescence is the very one that may prove the ruin of the larger manufacturers. The world has spawned a more discriminating market for the auto and indeed the parameters are ever changing but deep pockets and government intervention have kept this industry afloat. Porsche is a unique brand and interestingly they survived the downturn quite nicely but are now owned by Volkswagen. Go figure.
11:45 November 1, 2009 by Twiceshy
> I question all the newspaper articles who mention Volvo is a money loser when you see the car all over California (where I live) and their sales figures going up.

So now your personal observations of "more Volvo cars on the road" trump the financial reports which say Volvo has been losing money for a long time?

18:39 November 1, 2009 by pollyadm
I am consistently wondering why Chinese products have a reputation of low quality and are always badly criticized. I think there is a great misunderstanding in ideology and misdirecting leaded by some hearsays. China has the most ISO certified industries in the world, approximately 4 times of the number more than US (You know what is ISO and check relevant database, and I will be speechless if you say these standards are nonsenses), so most Chinese made products, at least imported are of quality meeting customer requirements.

Well, in Europe, all imported products from China have been strictly supervised during production processes and examined by your beloved EU, which means these imported products have met all the quality requirements set by EU. So If you still think that the Chinese-made products you are currently using have serious quality problem, then you should turn to EU and blame them for duty negligence, rather than poor China.

Now lets just ask why so many folks consistently buy Chinese-made rather than the quality famed German products? Yeah, the reason is cheap. You buy is because you can afford it, as we say you get what you pay for. So the term "low quality Chinese product" could be the result by comprising with, i.e German made goods. But you would like to buy a qualified product with reasonable price rather than excellent quality with a price that's far beyond your purchase ability, it is true.

If you are still asking why so many fkig Chinese products here? Then just go and ask HM, IKEA, Volvo, Dell........ and don't forget to criticize and force them to draw back all their factories, and of cos you may by chance win a job opportunity :-)

For this case I am not sure how the Volvo's destiny will be, since Ford abandon it and no other entities would like to give a glance, I am not surprising if it will be dead forever some day under the hand of Geely. But what else would you observers who never buy Volvo before and now expect for? Just make complaint here and share worries with your dearest Swedes.
09:28 November 2, 2009 by bjinger
To Pollyadm, your observation is right.I dare say most of people live in Europe know little about new emerging market countries, mainly because of the unbalanced information provided by the biased medias.
11:31 November 2, 2009 by linjiechou
China buying Volvo-two perspectives 02 Nov 2009, 12:44 amTony Fang, a prominent China Sweden specialist posed the following article

"Can Geely-Volvo form one family?

Can jobs in Sweden remain after Chinese take-over?

Can productions in Sweden be increased (instead of being decreased) in the future?

Can jobs in Sweden be increased (instead of being decreased) in the future?

Can design and R&D remain Swedish?

Can a 18-year old inexperienced Chinese bachelor go out with a 28-year old experienced Swedish bondin with a divorce behind her?

Geely is an extremely junior player compared with Volvo. But there is reason to say YES to each of the above questions if a future-oriented analysis is given. Most people see Volvo-Geely deal as a zero-sum game. Indeed, Geely is a very junior player compared with Volvo. Geely needs help. But I also believe there exists room for a win-win solution for all. I see enormous opportunities for Volvo car in the future. Some people say OK but still worry about ten years from now. I would like to say that in ten years time, more and more Swedish blondin will elbow each other to go out with Chinese boys simply becuase the nightlife is more exciting out there than here. The Swedish blondin will very soon understand why her Chinese boyfriend who could be so advanced as to rocket people to outerspace could not produce a good car in the past; he simply didn't have a focus on her... Now with the blondin in bed and in arm and in love, the Chinese boyfriend will concentrate from now on. In ten years time, the Chinese boy (then a 28-year old man) will take his Swedish girlfriend to travel the world and conquer the world, be it in China, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Australia or Africa."


But there's one important arguement missing is that:

Will the world audience takes this couple serious? or is it better for the Swedish girl to play alone? The previous marriage with the American boy at least didn't create any "psychic distance" culturally speaking. Chinese boy can buy off the blondin but will it last long? Will the consumer still take Volvo as a bench mark for quality and safety?

The brand image comes with the concept of the cultural attractiveness. Being Swedish and American both represent a cool clique (The swedish blondin and the Texas cowboy). But how can China build on the legacy quality and trustworthiness?
13:17 November 2, 2009 by bjinger
to #17

"The brand image comes with the concept of the cultural attractiveness". But the question is: who you wish to buy it that will make Volvo surrive.The answer is clear, the attractiveness is not enough to surrive Volvo employment and competition.Volvo needs a new life.
19:53 November 2, 2009 by spy

When companies get too large they can often lose their way and it seems some members of the Auto industry are a good example of this.

Yes you are right Porsche is owned by VW but this has nothing whatsoever to do with the profitability of each Porsche sold.

In fact the Porsche / VW saga is a little complicated as originally Porsche set out to buy VW - it borrowed heavily to gain a controlling share in the VW. When it reached a 51% stake the credit crunch hit and Porsche failed to raise the funds required to reach the 75% required by law. As such the Porsche CEO and CFO fell on their swords and in a reversal of fortunes Porsche was bought by VW.. So I would not say that this was a typical or even planned from the outset.
00:00 November 3, 2009 by arnuxii
I love seeing a capitalist country (China) showing a socialist country (Sweden) how it is done.

In fact it is a general trend, countries embracing left-liberal ideology fail and countries that are capitalistic win. Examples are Japan, China, Singapore & Taiwan

The pattern is even clearer if you look at countries that change ideology.

China under communism = fail

China under capitalism = win

North Korea under communism = fail

South Korea under capitalism = win

India used to be very socialist and very poor

Now it is a bit capitalistic it has a huge middle class

Of course to a true believer of left-liberal ideology they are losing because of evil capitalists. There is no proof but true believers don't need proof.
04:50 November 3, 2009 by volvoman9
You are again absolutely right spy. Perhaps it would serve us well to watch what other Ford cast offs do. So far Jag and Land Rover have not suffered terribly at the hands of their Indian owners. Only time will tell.
19:48 November 3, 2009 by Marvino

Ask yourself who writes the Volvo Cars financial reports. FORD. It is surprising how Volvo did OK in Sweden and on international markets before FORD bought it. Can you explain why Volvo is losing money after being bought by FORD ? GM destroyed Saab and FORD is just about to do the same with Volvo. I only hope the non Chinese bidders will try again.
08:59 November 4, 2009 by bjinger
If they can, they have done it.
19:55 November 4, 2009 by Marvino
to #18 bjinger

You are a really fancy word manipulator... B ut you are only 50% correct. The brand image comes also with the concept of quality, not only cultural attractiveness. This is why Porsche, Audi and BMW are surviving the financial crisis much better than the US car manufacturers. Volvo will do OK if it gets rid of Odell, and FORD, who gave him the CEO job at Volvo....
20:48 November 5, 2009 by karex
Marvino, you have a point there. However, I would say that the Volvo image comes PRIMARILY with the concepts of QUALITY and SAFETY. Two aspects which Ford managed to badly cripple. The cultural attractiveness came later, primarily due to the baby boomers who decided that to beat the Joneses down the street every husband had to own a BMW or Porsche and his wife a Volvo - the safe, reliable car to drive the children around and go shopping in.

Quality is not cheap to maintain. When you are so blinded with the quick profits of volume sales you will need to become attractive to a larger portion of the population. Meaning, those less able to afford the quality, so the quality has to go...

To cover it up, you add a lot of pretty trinkets, bells and whistles, but only the cheap ones of course. The old addage: you get what you pay for applies in this case. They even managed to sink their own flagship, the Mustang by applying this same ill-conceived volume strategy. The simple reason why Porsche, Audi and BMW did well is that they didn't go down that line, but steadfastly held on to their original priorities.

It's not the size of the US automakers that created their downfall, it was their stupidity. Someone came up with the grand idea that they should sell a lot of cars at lower prices, and everyone else jumped on the bandwagon. Most, I suspect didn't bother to try to gauge the temperature of the customer base and figure out what they really wanted. When you stop asking your customers what they really want, you're creating your own demise.

Geely may even by some miracle manage to maintain the quality - which actually means improving it back to real Volvo standards pre-Ford, even more difficult. But even if they manage, the IMAGE the customers have of the new Volvo owners will undermine their efforts. It will take years of continuously proving that they indeed can maintain the quality level for the customers to start timidly coming back. No company can wait that long to start making a profit.

If they're smart, which I am pretty sure they are, they won't even try. They'll buy the company to get the technology and either let it die or completely change the brand into a budget transport.

Either way, Volvo is done with.
20:10 November 7, 2009 by texasgubbar
"China under communism = fail" In case you havent heard, China is still very comfortably communist. I think in the future it will be democracy that failed, not capatalism.

I remember the same gripes and critisisms of Japanese cars back in the 70's. Well guess who is kicking a$$ in the automotive world??? I wouldnt be suprised that in 10-15 years there will be Chinese auto plants built among the hillbillies of Tennessee and Georgia... next to the Fiat plants :)

Sweden just doesnt have a big enough market to support a car company, much less 2, its no fault of their own. Just like Eriksson teamed with Sony, to be a world player you cant be just a Swedish player. When I first started travelling to Sweden in the 70's you saw 2 brands on every road, Volvo and Saab, now you see 3x the number of brands that are available in the states.

The Chinese will be the first out with a plug in hybrid. If they slap a Volvo badge on it then the better for Volvo (who ignored small high mileage cars). This is a win-win for Volvo to become a mass market car and Saab to become a niche specialty car.
21:01 November 7, 2009 by Marvino
to texasgubbar #26

If you are a "real" texan, I doubt you will ever buy a Volvo hybrid made in China...As to the comfortably communist China..have you read the papers some month ago about the "comfortably communist" provinces Xinjiang and Tibet ? A lot of social unrest there...Hardly a sign of comfort. As to democracy, it had its ups and downs since Athens, but somehow it survived. Communim will never survive for too long in any part of the world, including China. People kind of like to be free.
21:06 November 7, 2009 by nauticv70

The argument that Sweden isn't large enough to support two car companies makes no sense. Not all Volvos and Saabs have to be sold in Sweden, as evidenced by the fact that the U.S. is the largest market for Volvos in the world. And the world is certainly large enough to support two Swedish brands.

Even if the Chinese are the first with a plug in hybrid, which they might not be, that doesn't mean they'll make the best plug in hybrid. And to "slap a Volvo badge on it" would absolutely not be better for Volvo, it would in fact be a catastrophe. Because when that Chinese made plug in hybrid branded as a Volvo is crash tested, it will immediately destroy the brand image Volvo has worked for over the past 80+ years.

Additionally, Volvo in no way ignored small high mileage cars. Their DrivE series of cars are among the most fuel efficient in Europe The S40 and C30 (if not the V50 too) are listed as 2 of the most fuel efficient cars currently on sale in Europe. And their carbon emissions are as low or lower than most hybrid vehicles, without the cost or environmental destruction associated with a huge battery.
09:42 November 9, 2009 by bjinger
to #27

For China, it seems you know so little. You are using an old language to describe a far changing country.Your words have little value when talk to people in China.

Many western countres are less perfect than they were; China is much better than you thought.Go and see.
21:19 November 9, 2009 by Nemesis
Regarding Volvo, those analysts are idiots.

They know nothing about China. It is obvious by there words.

GM has stripped every patent out of Volvo. I wish someone would name the source that keeps claiming they have patents in Volvo. There is none, GM bought Volvo and integrated Volvo's patents directly into its patent bank.

Geely knows it will be buying only a brand name and a production line.

Regarding China. I see there is the usual completely misinformed comments about the subject.

In China they are training not hundreds or thousands of scientists, but tens of thousands of scientists at the best universities in every single country. I have a feeling it may be an even higher figure.

In every city I have been to in Europe, I have seen Chinese students who are studying for degrees. They are mostly studying sciences and engineering. Contrary to what most think, it is only a minority of them who study banking, politics, psychology and other nonsense. The majority are in industrial areas.

Check out any university materials science, engineering, genetics, physics, mathmatics or biochemistry department in a univeristy. You will see them there.

Contrary to what the self opinionated in west think they know about China, they have serious know how.

China has very good, innovative engineers and scientists. They are training scientists and engineers in the tens of thousands.

They are building well funded, massive research institutes, in every area of science.

A suggestion for you all, who think you know anything about China.

Goto the Centre of Shanghai to the biggest skyscraper you can find. Talk them into letting you take pictures as a panoramic from the top of the building. Compare it with New York.

Your eyes will tell you everything you need to know.

Check out the Maglev in China while there.

China is no longer a third world country. We in the west will probably be the third world in the next century compared to them.

We are training, bankers, lawyers and psychiatrists. We have our priorities wrong. We need scientists and engineers.

We are complacent. We are standing still.

We need to wake up and realise we are being left behind, not the other way around.

Ten to twenty years from now we will see commentators asking why we are suddenly so far behind them that all we can see is dust from them flying past us.

That country is changing so fast, it is impossible to keep up with it.

I am sure some idiot here will try to say it is a facade or they are still far behind. Believe what you want, as China will prove you wrong with there actions.

China is going to become richer than the USA in my lifetime and significantly more powerful.

The world is changing.

We in Europe need to integrate more and act as one on the world stage, otherwise risk becoming irrelevant.

The old ideas of Atlantic alliance are irrelevant and dead, it is just no one has realised that yet.
13:33 November 10, 2009 by karex

Volvo Cars was bought by Ford, not GM.
21:52 November 11, 2009 by Marvino
Nemesis #30

You are great and know everything better than the idiotic analysts. But have a look at comment #31...Just a slip of your finger on the PC keybord, right...?

As to China, I am afraid it is still a third world country, and will remain so as long as communism prevails there.
14:21 November 24, 2009 by spy
Nemesis is logging on from a lunatic asylum...
04:35 December 22, 2009 by tellitilikeitis
Spy, Marvino,

I've seen several cities and many factories in China with my own eyes. It is _exceedingly_ difficult for someone who has not been there recently to imagine the scale of China's industrial might.

Don't be fools. Nemesis may be stating the case in an abrasive manner, but what he says is quite true. When you visit the industrial areas of China, you cannot but be shocked at how far China has come in so short a time. Twenty years ago Shenzhen was just a dream. Today it's a reality.

I would encourage anyone who has never been there, anyone who imagines that China is still a third world country to look up the cities of the Pearl River Delta. Wikipedia is a good place to start.

Clear your heads of delusion. China, the sleeping dragon, has awoken.
13:34 January 7, 2010 by Lcxml
Tread with caution when you deal with someone shaking his money to your face.
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