Fears for Volvo expose sour turn in Sweden’s ties with China

By Thomas Erdbrink and Christina Anderson

The 2009 meeting in Shanghai between the Swedish union leader and the “Chinese Henry Ford” started in a minibus ride and ended in one of the financial capital’s most opulent hotels. There, the men struck an unlikely alliance to save the struggling Swedish carmaker Volvo.

The president of Geely Auto Group, Li Shufu, promised that his ownership would provide a blank check and allow Volvo to keep its name and independence. He has since invested $10 billion as Volvo’s value has risen tenfold during the last decade. Even during the pandemic, Volvo’s sales have held up compared with the dismal results of rivals.

“We got near-total freedom to excel,” the union leader, Magnus Sundemo, said in a recent interview at his house in a suburb of Gothenburg, Volvo’s home base. “We started believing we could fight with Audi, BMW and Mercedes. We got our confidence back.”

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