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Volvo to focus on electric cars starting in 2019

By Paul Welitzkin in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-07-06 10:42

Volvo, which is owned by China's Geely Holding Group Co, on Wednesday became the first mainstream auto company to signal the end of the conventional internal combustion engine, but some observers aren't ready yet to write the obituary.

Calling its announcement "one of the most significant moves by any carmaker", Volvo said that all of its new models from 2019 on will either be hybrids or battery powered. Volvo said it will still be manufacturing earlier models that have internal combustion engines. Electric vehicles are powered by a battery and electric motor while hybrids utilize a battery but still run on gasoline.

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said that "this announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car". "People increasingly demand electrified cars, and we want to respond to our customers' current and future needs," he said.

Samuelsson said the shift to electric motors would "strengthen our brand image, which is a lot about protecting what is important for you (customers)," according to The Associated Press. Volvo has set a goal of selling 1 million electric vehicles by 2025. Last year, the company sold 534,332 cars in 100 countries.

"This is a bold move, but it is not as bold as it sounds at first blush, because hybrid vehicles use internal combustion engines for a substantial portion of the time they are in operation," Jack Nerad, Kelley Blue Book's executive market analyst, said in a press release. "Making hybrid powertrains available on all Volvos has been one of the company's keynote strategy for several years now."

David Whiston, an industry analyst with Morningstar Inc, said in an email that Volvo is likely remaining a premium player so it is assuming wealthier consumers will pay a premium for hybrid and (electric) models.

"With Volvo's clientele, they can get away with that, but I'm not expecting a volume automaker such as GM (General Motors) or Toyota saying they'll only make hybrids and (electrics) starting in the next couple of years," he said.

Dave Zoia, a writer for industry journal WardsAuto, noted that Volvo isn't eliminating gasoline engines entirely because much of its production won't be electric-only, but hybrids of some type.

"It doesn't mark the end of the internal combustion engine, which most in the industry see continuing well beyond 2030. It does put Volvo among those on the forefront of what is expected to be a migration toward electrification as automakers look to meet toughening emissions and fuel-economy standards in markets around the world," he wrote in an email.

Brian Moody, executive editor of the auto research site, said that "if any automaker can manage the move to all-electric, it's Volvo".

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