Does Volvo have a future? I'm asked that question all the time. Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby told us late in the year that, yes, Volvo is around for the long haul now that the new Geely ownership from China is in place. Apparently there are deep pockets there. Volvo will need to dig into them.
Volvo's story over the past decade is all about boom and bust. In 2007, Volvo sales hit a record 458,323. Then sales slumped to 334,808 last year. Sales aside, Volvo hasn't turned a profit since 2005. In Canada, Volvo has almost disappeared. In short, Volvo has been a disaster for the last five years. We'll now see what Volvo can do as a global auto maker with Chinese ownership - an historic first, by the way.
9. ELECTRIC CARS
Nissan began selling its Leaf electric vehicle (EV) in 2010, as did General Motors with its Chevrolet Volt extended range EV. Both are coming to Canada in 2011, so we watched the arrival of them carefully.
Okay, now most sensible people would concede that electric vehicles must sell on their merits as so-called "real cars" - cars that are practical, affordable and, above all, utterly lacking in compromises.
But it's the affordable piece of the story that will make or break EVs. Nissan is arguing the Leaf should be less expensive to drive than a gasoline car: a typical gasoline car getting a combined 8.0 litres/100 km will have an annual fuel cost of $1,800 or $0.08 per km (at $1 a litre). The Leaf? At current electricity rates (averaging $0.06 a kW-hour) the per km cost comes down to $0.009, with annual energy costs coming in at $180 or one-tenth the cost of a comparable gasoline-powered, four-door hatchback. Will that story sell in Canada?
10. THE CHINESE CAR EXPLOSION
In China's capital, Beijing, more than 1,000 new cars hit the road every day. China is now the world's largest passenger-car market. By 2105, J.D. Power expects passenger car sales to hit 13.5 million in China.
That may underestimate the situation. A UBS report entitled "What if everyone in China had a car?" says that just 4 per cent of Chinese over 14 and 1 per cent of Indians have cars. In the U.S., it's 44 per cent and in Japan 46 per cent. There is plenty of crazy growth potential left for car sales in China and India.
The future of the auto industry? By the end of this decade it will start in China.