Volvo Cars wants to make sure that its next models will gratify the local tastes of the Chinese market and to achieve this, it will hire a team of designers in China.
Design chief Peter Horbury said that there is a research center being set up in Shanghai's Jiading district that will be where these designers will be working.
Per-Ake Froberg, a Volvo spokesman, said that Volvo's next model will be in the premium compact segment. This model planned for 2012 is co-designed by Horbury and predecessor Stephen Mattin.
This model is expected to compete with Audi's A3 and BMW's 1-Series. In an interview at Volvo's headquarters in Gothenburg, Horbury acknowledged that there’s “still a cultural difference in tastes and requirements.”
CEO Stefan Jacoby has set a goal of doubling sales to 800,000 cars in a decade and China is seen to be the key to achieving this.
Being able to come up with a design that attracts buyers in China and the US (the two largest auto markets) will help Volvo reposition itself as an upscale brand to rival BMW AG and Volkswagen AG's Audi, the leader in the luxury-car segment in China.
Ashvin Chotai, managing director at Intelligence Automotive Asia Ltd. in London, said that it’s “critical” for carmakers to study China very thoroughly and to have an understanding of what’s going on there. Volvo is now owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. [via autonews - sub. required]