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CEO: Pace and vision of Volvo led by China

Updated: Feb 26, 2024 By LI FUSHENG China Daily Print
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Volvo Cars President and CEO Jim Rowan. [Photo/China Daily]

China is far more than just an important market for Volvo's development, said the Swedish premium carmaker's president and CEO Jim Rowan.

Rowan made the remarks on Wednesday when he came to Shanghai for the groundbreaking ceremony of the fourth phase of Volvo Cars Asia Pacific Headquarters, which will involve a battery center and training center.

China is Volvo's largest market. Last year, over 180,000 vehicles were sold in the country with new energy vehicle sales up 25 percent in the Chinese mainland.

They accounted for roughly a quarter of Volvo's global sales and helped push them to a record high, but Rowan said China "plays a much bigger role than that".

Among other things, he said China brings "pace" to the Swedish company. "China as a country is operating at a higher pace than many other countries and that pushes our business into a higher cadence, and I think that is always a good thing," said Rowan.

He added innovation in China's EV industry has helped increase Volvo's knowledge and perception in aspects including smart cabin-related technology.

Despite the fierce competition in the Chinese smart EV market, Rowan said he is optimistic about Volvo's position.

He explained while many rivals are boasting the number of displays and apps inside their vehicles, which Rowan said is easy to do, Volvo will help enhance the vehicle's safety with the help of smart technology.

Rowan gave the example of its EX90, an electric seven-seat SUV which sports 16 ultrasonic sensors, eight cameras, five radar systems, and the Luminar lidar system, all connected together with its own software.

He said the model can "see 250 meters in complete darkness "while the human driver can only see 50-60 meters with headlights on if they drive at nighttime.

Rowan admitted that some advantages that premium carmakers have enjoyed in the age of gasoline vehicles, like acceleration, are gone as the automotive industry is charging forward toward electrification.

But he was quick to add that startups vowing to enter the premium vehicle segment need to prove how they are different from other players already in the market, like Volvo's emphasis on safety.

"There are 1.5 billion people in China — we don't need every customer — but I think there are enough customers in China who appreciate safety, sustainability and Scandinavian design," he said.

Rowan is confident about Volvo's performance this year after its record year in 2023, in which its sales went up 15 percent year-on-year, operating revenue rose 21 percent and profit soared 43 percent.

"We grew last year, even though it was a tough market. I think we will grow again this year, quite considerably. And I think that is because of our technology and our brand position, not only in China but also globally."

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