Volvo's Jacoby rankled by question of safety commitment

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.

GENEVA -- Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby got a little testy in an interview at the Geneva auto show Tuesday when asked whether Chinese ownership could hurt Volvo's safety image.

"Why would you even ask that question?" Jacoby said. "Do you think the Chinese want to kill people on the road?"

China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. bought Volvo Cars from Ford in August 2010 for about $1.8 billion.

With all due respect, Chinese cars -- earlier ones, at least -- had a terrible reputation for safety. It's a natural concern as to whether that reputation might have an impact on a brand so closely identified with safety.

Jacoby was fresh from a trip to China during which he announced that Volvo plans to build up to 200,000 cars a year in China, starting in the third quarter of 2013.

He said in a more measured way that China is becoming much more integrated into the global economy. Jacoby said Chinese automakers are well aware that safety is everybody's priority.