Lots of Volvos around this town have been fitted with a fake-Euro plate up front — Oklahoma doesn’t issue a front plate — that says “SWEDISH,” as though you couldn’t tell. Except, of course, that nowadays things are different:
For decades, Volvo wore its Swedishness on its sleeve, emphasizing the values that made Ikea, Abba and Swedish porn so popular in the US … even when it was an outpost of the Ford empire. And then the unthinkable happened: Chinese up-and-comer Li Shufu bought the brand and rolled it into his Geely empire. In the world of national-character-branding, being bought by a Chinese firm is something like hiring Casey Anthony as a brand ambassador.
Ouch. So what does Volvo do now to avoid the stereotype of Cheap Chinese Crap? CEO Stefan Jacoby floats this notion:
One weakness of Volvo cars is the exposure to the U.S. dollar, so we are investigating increasing our sourcing in North America. The utmost solution would be to have a North American industrial footprint. We haven’t made up our mind.
Sweden’s other automaker, assuming it’s still functioning at the time you read this, has never been able to afford to be picky; in recent years, some Saabs have been sourced from Japan (9-2X, a Subaru design), the US (9-7X, an artificially-Swedened Chevy TrailBlazer), and Mexico (9-4X, cousin to the Cadillac SRX). This may explain why I’ve never seen one of those “SWEDISH” tags on a Saab.