Volvos made in China to come to U.S. 'fairly quickly,' says CEO

Volvo plans to launch a pilot autonomous-car program in Sweden, says CEO Hakan Samuelsson. Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS

DETROIT -- Volvos produced in China will be exported to the U.S. market "fairly quickly," Hakan Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo Car Corp. said at the Automotive News World Congress.

Samuelsson, 62, would not give a target date but indicated that Volvo is in a unique position to use China as a manufacturing and export base, because it is owned by the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which purchased the brand from Ford Motor Co. in 2010.

"It will happen fairly quickly in the Volvo group, but it has to be a process that you discuss with your dealers and sales group," he said. "We are the only ones who can think of using the factories for export, which we will be doing."

Samuelsson said he doesn't expect consumers to react negatively to the notion of a Volvo produced in China. U.S. consumers, he said, are already accustomed to sophisticated products such as smartphones coming from Chinese factories.

Samuelsson, a former truck executive who took the helm at Volvo 14 months ago, said he has spent the past year cutting costs, reshuffling the U.S. management team and getting Volvo back into the black.

Volvo is also working on autonomous cars and will launch a joint test with the Swedish government in2017 with real drivers on public roads, he said.

The Drive Me autonomous-car pilot will use 100 self-driving Volvos, and the company and the Swedish government will split the $70 million cost.

Driving will never be totally autonomous -- "that would be crazy," Samuelsson said. "It would be very costly and complicated."

Instead, carmakers should automate "the really boring parts," such as driving 55 mph on the highway or sitting in traffic, he said.

He compared autonomous driving to the autopilot feature in airplanes, which is intended to improve safety, "not comfort for the pilot."

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@autonews.com -- Follow Diana T. on Twitter: @dianakurylko

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