Volvo’s move continues to electrify the industry

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Posted: July 13, 2017

It wasn’t just buzz last week, it was a kind of Big Bang. Or at least felt that way.

After Volvo announced it would sell only electrified vehicles starting in 2019 one headline writer asked: “Did Volvo just seal the combustion engine’s fate?”

The move underscored what has been happening for 18 months: An extraordinary rush to EV master planning among global automakers.

Hardly a day goes by without some new wrinkle in the global thrust toward electro-mobility. But Volvo went further than most, at least in the audacity of its announcement. And it appeared to stun the industry, possibly out of proportion.

Bloomberg’s headline: “Like Bob Dylan,  Volvo goes electric.”

The Toronto Star: “The news hit the auto industry like a bolt: all Volvo models sold after 2019 will have an electric motor, making Volvo the first conventional (ie., internal combustion engine) car company to demarcate when the old world ends and the new world begins. The plan is so ambitious that subsequent news out of France announcing the end of gas and diesel vehicle sales in that country by 2040 seemed beside the point.”

Among established brands, Volvo seemed perfect to deliver the message: Wired magazine said: “Past and present, Volvo has always been the future of cars.”

All told, last week may shape up as a turning point in the EV chronicle.

Among senior executives across the industry the news  overshadowed Tesla’s rollout of the Model 3, probably still the most significant EV event of 2017. But they struggled with what to make of it. Was it less than meets the eye?

Business Insider: “For cynics, Volvo’s announcement is a mere PR stunt designed to capitalize on the propulsion method du jour.”

Or was it significantly more?

Was CEO Hakan Samuelsson right when he said: “Our customers are asking more and more about electric cars … a much bigger risk would be to stick with internal combustion engines”?

Among all the world’s automakers, Volvo, with its Chinese ownership and forward-thinking leaders (Samuelsson and Geely’s Li Shufu), is the one brand that seems to have the measure of Tesla these days.

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