Now in the hands of Geely, the Swedish OEM is expanding its manufacturing footprint in China and the US
Volvo, one of the most iconic and best-known Swedish brands, is also the last Swedish car company, following the demise of Saab. Now owned by Chinese OEM Geely, Volvo is a small automotive manufacturer relative to the likes of VW and Toyota. Even so, it can genuinely be considered a global operation, with its Swedish and Belgian factories now joined by two new vehicle plants and an engine plant in China, plus a US vehicle plant coming on stream in 2018.
Speaking at the 2015 Automotive News Congress in Birmingham, Volvo’s CEO, Hakan Samuelson, explained how the new Volvo started life in 2011, when it was sold by Ford to Geely. Since then, Volvo management has focused on creating a new company with three new brand values, namely: cars that understand you (through intuitive vehicle connectivity systems), protect you (through advanced safety systems) and make you feel good (by being environmentally leading edge, as exemplified by the Twin Drive version of the XC90).
The bodyshop at Volvo Chengdu makes the S60L and XC60
Volvo is being re-branded and re-engineered from top to bottom, with all-new or thoroughly modernised factories and brand new platforms for a 21st-century model line-up. At the heart of this is the SPA platform (Scalable Platform Architecture), which underpins the new XC90 and will also underpin all new large Volvos. In addition, Volvo is now working on a second platform, CMA (Compact Modular Architecture), together with its owner, Geely. The CMA will underpin the next V40 and other Volvo models of this size, as well as C-segment and smaller vehicles for Geely.
When SPA was announced in 2013, Volvo’s head of R&D, Peter Mertens, said that it would allow Volvo to be “nimbler, different and better than high-volume car companies”. SPA vehicles are intended to share more than three-quarters of their non-visible underbody parts; with SPA, the critical issue was fixing the position of the centre of the front wheels relative to the pedal. In addition, SPA uses much more aluminium and boron steel than were used on equivalent parts in the past; the front structure, doors, much of the chassis and drivetrain all use far more aluminium than before, while the safety cage of the new XC90 uses 40% boron steel compared with less than 10% boron steel on the old model.
Volvo’s home factory in Gothenburg, Sweden, has already been converted to SPA production and all the models made there will switch to this platform in the next few years. Meanwhile, the Ghent plant in Belgium will switch to the new CMA platform by 2018; and in China, SPA models will be made in both the new plants at Chengdu and Daqing. In addition, SPA models will be made at Volvo's new US factory, although exactly which models will be made has not been confirmed.
Further details on each Volvo plant are set out below: