"I gave rare interviews to the media in recent days, speaking less and doing more," said Li Shufu, Chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely). Geely's acquisition of Volvo seems has endowed him with more low-profile fashion in his acts.
By acquiring the well-known automobile brand Volvo from Ford in 2010, Geely shocked the global automobile industry. On the afternoon of May 13, Li Shufu gave an exclusive interview to Xinhua News Agency in its manufacturing base in Daqing, elaborating on the status-quo of the Volvo brand, the features that will be retained, abandoned or adjusted by the brand, the layout of the "Chinese version" Volvo in the future, and the nourishment that the Chinese automobile industry can draw from the brand.
Entering a "New Stage"
With the launch of a vehicle manufacturing base in Daqing, an engine plant in Zhangjiakou and a R&D center in Shanghai, Volvo released its industrial layout in China in the second half of 2013. In the same year, Volvo sold more than 60,000 units in China, a year-on-year increase of 46%. In the first four months of this year, the sales in China amounted to nearly 24,000 units, a year-on-year increase of 30%.
"In general, Volvo is prospering around the globe, and it has stepped into a new development stage," said Li Shufu. Satisfactory progress has been made in growth of sales and revenue, in the launching of new products, and in the development and application of new technologies such as hybrid fuel-electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and automatic driving.
Transferring from lofty and self-contained image to post-90s-friendly style
"Volvo is taking the initiative to change the lofty and self-contained image of the past. Instead of sticking to its previous style , the models focus more on its fashion elements and is dedicated to meeting the appeals of the young consumers represented by the "post-90s" generation," Li Shugu told the reporter. According to him, Volvo's popularity among the consumers lies in its superior performance in overall design, vehicle information system, inter-connection, automatic driving and other technologies.
According to Li Shufu, the demands of the consumers are undergoing changes as well. In those days when the cars reached the Chinese market, the aimless consumers had less choices. The consumers today, clearly bearing their needs in mind, make more rational choices. Featured by the low-profile and composed style and top quality, Volvo keeps it in line with the mainstream value of today's society.
Persisting in safety, health and environmental-friendly philosophy
"We can change the style and constantly improve the technology, but the safety, health and environmental-friendly philosophy for producing cars will never change," Li Shufu said.
Represented by the safety belt, airbag and child seat, Volvo's innovation in the cars' safety has made great contribution to global auto industry, which cannot be measured in money. "Safety is always the priority of Volvo in the past, present as well as future," Li Shufu said.
Like the safety belt, Volvo has also introduced the three-way catalytic converter equipped with the oxygen sensor to the auto industry for free, contributing to the reduction of the vehicle exhaust emission.
Daqing plant is "very important" to Volvo
Li Shufu explained that he chooses Daqing as the production plant both in support of the strategy of revitalizing the Northeast old industrial hub and out of his fondness for this city. More importantly, Daqing's natural conditions and human environment correspond with Volvo's culture.
The "Volvo effect" has already presented itself in Daqing, a city relentlessly exploring ways of transformation. Cooperation has been conducted between Volvo and universities including Northeast Petroleum University, Daqing Normal University, Heilongjiang Bayi Agricultural University as well as colleges such as Daqing Jishi Xueyuan, Daqing Traffic Technical School. Through jointly cultivating professional talents and organizing scientific research, they are building an excellent team of "blue-collar workers".
"As a key component of Volvo's global manufacturing business, Daqing plant plays an important role in Volvo's strategy in China and global business at large."Li Shufu pointed out that they are mulling to have Volvo's most advanced luxury model produced in Daqing plant, one of the most advanced automobile factories worldwide.
Geely and Volvo are to be "Good Brothers"
In response to public concern about Volvo's quality after the acquisition, Li Shufu promised, "we'll not allow this to happen."
According to Li Shufu, Volvo will, as always, intensify its efforts in respecting and carrying forward its own fine cultural traditions, absorbing more quintessence from Europe's industrial civilization and commercial civilization, and exploring and expanding emerging markets including China while consolidating traditional markets of Europe and the US, thus bringing Volvo back on the premium car brands list.
"Geely and Volvo are brothers, not father and son."Li Shufu indicated that though Geely has learned a lot from Volvo, they differ greatly in brand positioning and product positioning. The course for their future development is charted by the brand relationship between Volkswagen and Audi, whose case shares similarity with that of Geely and Volvo.
Win the world's respect for China's automobile industry
Li Shufu mentioned that the combination with the world-renowned brand not only expands his outlook, but also brings him pressure. "The past decades have witnessed the significant development of China's automobile industry; however, the gaps between us and our counterparts in the world remain great."He said China's automobile industry can earn the world's respect only by strengthening innovation ability, not by copying and imitating blindly for quick success and instant benefits.
"We'll make down-to-earth efforts to help realize the Chinese dream of the great national revitalization " added Li Shufu.