Last year, Volvo sold 2,500 cars in China and expects a 12% increase in sales in 2004 with volume increasing “even more rapidly” during the coming five to six years.

“Volvo is a desirable, premium brand, which means that our customers’ expectations are extremely high. They expect to get premium services and quality for their money, which Volvo can provide,” Volvo Cars president and CEO Hans-Olov Olsson told reporters at Auto China 2004 in Beijing.

“Focusing on customer satisfaction is extremely important to Volvo, and especially for our growth in China. Just as we talk real life safety when we design our cars, we have to provide real life customer service in our service receptions and workshops. Our mission is to fulfil our customers’ expectations, or preferably exceed them,” he added.

Volvo currently has 35 dealers in China and plans to double the network over the next five years – a growth that will be co-ordinated with Jaguar and Land Rover, the other premium brands in parent company Ford’s Premier Automotive Group .

“However, the brands will still keep their individual integrity and we have to make sure that every new dealership lives up to our customers’ expectations of personal service and quality,” said Olsson.

Volvo is considering building its cars in China, where Ford this week announced plans to triple capacity.

“To reach a competitive market situation Volvo is studying local manufacturing opportunities in China and a decision will be taken in the near future,” Olsson said.

During the period to 2010, the premium car segment in China is expected to grow from 105,000 cars to 345,000. Volvo’s current share is 2.3% – but it is after “a significant increase” over the next five to six years.

Olsson did not provide any figures to accompany his growth predictions.

“I want to emphasise that our perspective is based on the Volvo tradition of building lasting relationships. We are not here to look for quick, short-term gains. Our objectives are long-term ones – and our presence in this market is serious. We want to build an operation and an organisation that will be good for Volvo and contribute to China’s development as well,” Olsson said.

Chinese buyers currently prefer the luxury S80 saloon – which accounted for almost 90% (2,208 cars) of the brand’s Chinese sales last year. This makes China the fourth largest market after the USA for the flagship sedan.

The XC90 SUV, which has enjoyed enormous success worldwide since its introduction in 2002, accounted for 5% of sales in China last year – and Volvo also expects sales to “grow rapidly” over the next few years.

The redesigned S40 compact saloon is also scheduled to be introduced in China though Olsson did not mention its V50 wagon sibling, possibly because, as in Japan, wagons are a rare sight in the country and mostly dismissed by buyers as ‘commercial vehicles’.

“The S40 will be introduced in China in late 2004. It will make our product portfolio stronger and help create the sales boost we are looking for,” Olsson said, again without providing figures.