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Chinese cars sell well if they’re Swedish

In Korea, Volvos made in China are very popular with buyers
Aug 02,2019
China-made cars are selling well in Korea, largely because of Volvo.

According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, sales for cars made in China rose 128.8 percent to 1,066 units in the first half of this year, from 466 in during the same period last year.

Although Chinese automaker BAIC Group introduced the Kenbo 600 SUV and brought some of its electric buses to the local market, BAIC’s share in the Korean market is minimal at best.

Zhidou sold 63 units of its D2 electric car to local consumers in the first half this year, while Dongfeng Motor sold 282 of its trailers and commercial vehicles in Korea. The country also bought 34 electric buses from China during the same period.

As the numbers show, Chinese cars are not very popular in Korea.

But in stark contrast to the feeble sales of indigenous Chinese brands in Korea, cars made in China did well in the local market.

It seems Volvo helped out, as Chinese factories have been producing passenger cars for the Swedish automaker since last year. In particular, Chinese factories have been exclusively producing Volvo’s flagship S90 sedan for Korean consumers.

Geely acquired Volvo’s passenger car business in 2010. It started manufacturing the S90 at its factory in Dachong, China, since the second half of last year. Its factory in Malaysia also manufactures S90, but the vehicles produced there are only for the Southeast Asian market.

Volvo prides itself in producing its cars in Sweden, as evidence by the “Made By Sweden” logos printed on the exterior of its vehicles.

But as an automaker with global sales, Volvo had to spread production throughout the world.

The Swedish automaker’s XC SUV and V wagon models are made in its factory in Torslanda, Sweden, but the compact SUV XC40 is made in Ghent, Belgium, while the new S60 sedans expected to reach Korea later this year are made in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Our consumers already know that the S90 is made in China, but they have made no complaints in terms of quality,” a Volvo Cars Korea spokesperson said.

“Vehicle quality from [the factory in China] is assured as the factory is brand new and the manufacturing process is managed and controlled directly by our Swedish headquarters.”

Volvo Cars Korea recently reached record level in sales, as the Korean unit of the Swedish automaker sold a total of 5,229 vehicles in the first half, up from 4,189 units a year earlier. It sold 687 units of the S90 in the first half of this year, up 20 percent from 572 units sold a year earlier.

Yet the number of imported vehicles sold in Korea between January and June this year was at 109,314 units, down 22 percent from 140,109 a year earlier.

BY LEE DONG-HYUN [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]