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Volvo Aiming To Double Sales by 2020

Swedish maker counting on big growth in China – but U.S. remains critical.

by on Nov.23, 2010

The hare beats the tortoise? Stefan Jacoby plans to get Volvo moving fast under its new Chinese owners.

According to Aesop, it took the slow but steady tortoise to beat the hare.  Don’t count on it, says Volvo Cars’ news CEO, Stefan Jacoby.  In today’s ever more competitive auto market, “the fast ones are eating the slow ones.”

Never known for setting a benchmark pace, the former Volkswagen executive says Volvo now plans to be “leaner, better, smarter and, especially, faster,” as it adjusts to life under Chinese ownership.

Sold earlier this year by Ford Motor Co., which decided it needs to get back to basics, Volvo hopes to more than double sales – to 800,000 annually – by 2020.  That goal will not only require speed by a shift in focus, Jacoby told  Look for Volvo to put more emphasis on emerging markets, including places like Brazil, as well as China.  But, Jacoby cautioned, don’t expect the maker to walk away from the U.S., which has traditionally served as its largest single source of sales.

The sale of Volvo to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group came at a critical came, said Jacoby.  The maker has suffered a significant slide, in recent years, only partially to blame on the global economic downturn.  Global sales are expected to reach just 380,000 for all of 2010, and in the U.S. demand is off almost 60% from its 2004 peak – from 140,000 down to just 60,000.

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But Jacoby is the proverbial optimist, looking at what he sees as a half-full glass.  “We are standing at the bottom looking up,” he said.

Part of the challenge will be to find the way to take advantage of the resources – and potential – offered by the Swedish maker’s new parent and Volvo’s Chinese sibling, the Geely brand.