The Gothenburg struggle

They aren't going to like this in Gothenburg, Sweden, but Ford's plan to keep Volvo is the right thing to do - for both Ford and Volvo.

In Paris for the auto show, Ford CEO Alan Mulally told one of our reporters the focus at Volvo is on improving its business performance, which means improving sales and cutting costs.

And -- at least for the time being -- Ford plans to keep Volvo.

It hasn't been the smoothest relationship since Ford CEO Jacques Nasser engineered the purchase of Volvo in 1999. Traditional product development staffers at Ford told me that some of the Volvo regulars resisted being integrated into Ford's global operation for fear of being sucked into a Blue Oval Borg.

Despite what you may have seen in all those classic Swedish movies made in the 1960s, Swedes can be determined and quite nationalistic, even culturally chauvinistic. I'm told there were foot-draggers in Gothenburg who didn't want to share platforms, technology or even the green/safety image with Dearborn.

That was bad enough in the days when Ford, Mazda and Volvo were chugging along, sharing a couple of platforms. But now that global auto sales have hit the fan, it's more important that product development teams from all of the brands work together for the common good.

Mulally wants to move the Volvo brand solidly into the premium category, which would complement his One Ford vision for the Ford brand. It also would be a dramatic shift from the pre-Ford days when Volvo was Everyman's Swedish brand, almost as if crafted by moviemaker Ingmar Bergman.

Ford may yet decide to peddle Volvo, the way it did Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover. But in the meantime, the theme must be share and share alike.

Having Ford lifer Stephen Odell as the new Volvo CEO ought to accelerate the business changes in Gothenburg.

Re-engineering the attitudes and the culture could be tougher.

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