Geely Assembles a Sharp Team to Manage Volvo

New Execs Include Former Volkswagen USA CEO Stefan Jacoby, Says Yang Jian at Auto News China

By Published on .

SHANGHAI ( -- The noteworthy part of what Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. did on Monday in London is not the ceremony it held to mark the closing of its Volvo Cars acquisition, but the introduction of a new board and management team charged with leading the newly-acquired subsidiary.

Judging by the list of names that Geely has disclosed, the private Chinese company has put together a strong international team to steward Volvo Cars.

Yang Jian
Yang Jian
That's a right step forward in Geely's effort to revive the troubled Swedish brand. The last time Volvo made an annual profit was in 2005.

Two things stand out as Geely formulates Volvo Cars' new leadership. First, it is a truly international team.

Geely's president Li Shufu now serves as chairman of Volvo Cars. Four of his six board directors are non-Chinese, professional veterans of the auto industry. They include Hans-Olov Olsson, who was Volvo Cars' CEO between 2000 and 2005; MAN AG chairman and CEO Hakan Samuelsson, and Magna International Executive VP Herbert Demel.

The other two board directors--both Chinese--received college degrees outside China and have worked for international automotive companies before--Winnie Kin Wah Fok, a veteran private equity investment professional who sits on the board of auto supplier SKF, and Freeman Shen, head of Fiat Powertrain Technologies China before joining Geely in late 2009.

The combination of Chinese and non-Chinese board members will facilitate cross-cultural communications at the highest level of the company.

In another key appointment, Stefan Jacoby, former CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, was named president and CEO of Volvo Cars. Mr. Jacoby served Volkswagen in different parts of the world, including Asia Pacific. He also has experience working for an Asian company -- he served as Mitsubishi Motor Corp.'s European chief from 2001 to 2004. His successful experience in growing Volkswagen's market share in the United States in the past few years will be of particular value to Volvo Cars. The U.S. is now Volvo Cars' second largest market after Europe.

To manage Volvo, a global car brand, requires an international team and a CEO with rich global experience and a proven track record.

Li Shufu is a wise man. He knows most of his existing deputies are not up to the task of running Volvo Cars because of their lack of international experience. Given their background, it is hard to assemble a better team of directors for Volvo Cars than those Geely has announced, or to find a stronger candidate than Stefan Jacoby for the CEO role.

Geely has yet to disclose the other members of Volvo Cars' senior management team. But I expect them to be auto industry professionals with international experience. Finding the right individuals to fill the top posts is one thing, making them work as a close-knit team is quite another. Let's wait and see how the new team will work along with each other to provide direction for the Swedish car brand now at the hand of a Chinese company.

Yang Jian is the managing editor of Automotive News China, a publication of Crain Communications.

Return to the Ad Age China home page here

In this article:
Most Popular