June 24, 2024


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Volvo waits for self-driving tech to improve before touting autonomous cars | Business

Volvo Cars has aggressively promoted its push toward becoming an all-electric brand, with the first such vehicle to be a successor to the XC90 SUV that will be built at the automaker’s Ridgeville campus starting in 2023.

The company’s effort to create self-driving cars, while a big part of Volvo’s future, hasn’t been as widely promoted.

There’s a reason for that.

“If you are to uphold Volvo safety traditions and standards, we can only call it autonomous self-drive technology when people can close their eyes and doze off in a self-drive car with 100 percent safety guaranteed,” Li Shufu, founder and chairman of Volvo parent Geely Holding Group, told the news service Reuters.

Li Shufu

Li Shufu is founder and chairman of Geely Holding Group, the parent company to Volvo Cars. File

It’s far too early to be making such guarantees, Li Shufu said.

He wants to use low-orbit satellites to beef up the slow, inaccurate connectivity and vehicle positioning capability of existing cars. He said “the technology should be able to position and navigate a car with a margin of error of a few millimeters,” according to the Reuters report.

William Malik, a cybersecurity expert at Trend Micro Inc., told Reuters those satellites would have to be augmented by others using 5G cellular signals, radar and digital cameras. That could run into a national security roadblock, with U.S. restrictions on the export of such technology to China.

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Li Shufu, whose Chinese company bought Sweden-based Volvo from Ford Motor Co. for $1.8 billion in 2010, is undaunted.

“We can do business together and maximize synergies within an industry,” he told Reuters. “That’s why I’m all against cutting off ties.”

Meanwhile, Volvo recently has been dealing with a different type of technology issue along with most other carmakers — a shortage of computer chips that control a range of entertainment and safety features. Volvo has been temporarily halting assembly lines at its plants, including its factory off Interstate 26 in Berkeley County, because there aren’t enough chips to complete vehicles.

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The work stoppages have lasted for a few days to a week at a time, according to news reports, and Volvo is warning that supply shortages could hurt sales through the second half of this year.

The company said some of its Southeast Asia parts suppliers have shut their factories since mid-July to limit the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, worsening an already strained supply chain.

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“Volvo continues to monitor the situation and currently expects that, for the second half of 2021, it will be challenging to achieve the volume levels achieved during the same period in 2020,” the automaker said in a written statement. 

Year-over-year global sales dropped by 10.6 percent in August, with the supply of new cars failing to meet what Volvo calls “high demand” for its vehicles. Sales in China were down by 17.2 percent while European sales were off by 25.4 percent.

Sales increased by 3 percent in the United States, giving Volvo 15 consecutive months of year-over-year growth. Volvo said the increase “was led by a strong customer demand,” mainly for the XC90 and XC60 sport-utility vehicles.

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“Reflecting on our journey from June 2020 to today, it’s encouraging to see yet another month of positive growth,” Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA, said in a written statement. “This is especially noteworthy in the context of the ongoing challenges our industry is facing.”

Volvo builds the S60 sedan at its Ridgeville campus and recently opened an adjacent Volvo University training center in the Camp Hall Commerce Park development. When the next-generation of the automaker’s largest SUV is added to the production line in a couple of years, its moniker won’t feature the combination of letters and numbers that Volvo is known for.

“We’re going to give cars a name as you give a newborn child,” Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said during a recent news conference.

He said the vehicle’s name will be unveiled at a later date.

“We have a very interesting and creative discussion going on about this now,” he said.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

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