China now Volvo’s third-largest market: reports

China has become the third-largest market for Volvo following its acquisition by Chinese automaker Geely, state media reported Saturday.

China now Volvo's third-largest market: reports
Geely's Li with Volvo France head Wim Maes at the Paris Motor Show, October 3

Alexander Klose, head of Volvo Cars China, made the comments at a trade show in the northern city of Tianjin, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

He said sales of the Swedish brand’s vehicles had soared in the world’s largest auto market in 2010.

“As of the end of September, Volvo’s global sales volume was up 12.5 percent year-on-year, compared with a 52 percent year-on-year rise in China,” he was quoted as saying.

Volvo also expanded its dealer network to 81 Chinese cities in 2010, he said, adding he was confident of seeing huge growth in the nation’s auto market in the next five years.

The struggling Swedish brand — known for its sturdy, family-friendly vehicles — was acquired from US auto giant Ford by China’s Geely in August for $1.5 billion.

Li Shufu, head of Geely, said in a September interview with the Wall Street Journal that he hoped to build three Volvo assembly plants in China that would produce up to 300,000 autos a year for sale in the Asian nation.

Volvo has joined a long list of car makers trying to cash in on China’s vast auto market, which overtook the United States last year to become the world’s largest.

On Friday, German automaker Daimler said it planned to invest €3 billion ($4.2 billion) in China by 2015 to boost production of Mercedes-Benz cars.

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Sweden’s Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings

Swedish truck maker Volvo Group was hit by a sharp drop in earnings due to the coronavirus pandemic, but business rebounded at the end of the year.

Sweden's Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings
Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

In 2020, the group saw “dramatic fluctuations in demand” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, chief executive Martin Lundstedt said in a statement.

For 2021, Volvo raised its sales forecasts in its trucks division – its core business – in Europe, North America and Brazil.

However, it said it also expected “production disturbances and increased costs” due to a “strained” supply chain, noting a global shortage of semiconductors across industries.

The truck making sector is particularly sensitive to the global economic situation and is usually hard hit during crises.

In March, as the pandemic took hold around the world, Volvo suspended operations at most of its sites in 18 countries and halted production at Renault Trucks, which it owns, in Belgium and France.

Operations gradually resumed mid-year, but not enough to compensate for the drop in earnings.

With annual sales down 22 percent to 338 billion kronor (33.4 billion euros, $40 billion), the group posted a 46 percent plunge in net profit to 19.3 billion kronor (1.9 billion euros).

Operating margin fell from 11.5 to 8.1 percent.

However, the group did manage to cut costs by 20 percent.

“We have significantly improved our volume and cost flexibility, which were crucial factors behind our earnings resilience in 2020,” the group said.

Volvo's business regained strength in the second half of the year.

“Customer usage of trucks and machines increased when the Covid-19 restrictions were eased during the summer and this development continued during both the third and fourth quarters,” it said.

“Both the transport activity and the construction business are back at levels on par with the prior year in most markets.”

For the fourth quarter alone, the company reported a 38-percent rise in net profit from a year earlier.