volvo-maud

Pictured above is Swedish deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson at yesterdays announcement of the sale of Volvo cars to the Chinese company Geely.

“Regardless of who owns Volvo Cars, its brand will still be Swedish.”

Unlike some Volvophiles, I couldn’t care less who owns the company. People are going to start hooting and hollering about this sale now that the rumors have been confirmed, but does it really matter? The important question is “Does the car suck or not?”

Critics, including Consumer Reports, have complained that the quality of Volvo cars has suffered since Ford purchased it in 1999. Is quality really going to get a whole lot worse now that it’s owned by Geely? Or is that just a xenophobic reaction about the supposed inferiority of Chinese workmanship?

Who defines a corporation’s product anyway? The nation that owns the company? The nation that originated the company? The nation where the cars are built? The nation where the cars are driven? Why is a Toyota that’s built in the US still a Japanese car, while a Volvo or Saab that’s owned by an American or Chinese company is still a Swedish car?

The idea of a nationally branded car is quaint. When Ford bought Volvo the brand ceased to “be Swedish,” whatever that means. It became just another commodity in a global marketplace that gets parts contracted out to companies all over the world but has the imprimatur of a corporate board and an aura constructed by the branding wizards of the marketing department.

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