Geely has dampened speculation it is the bidder behind a potential takeover of GM’s Opel plant in Antwerp.
GM pulled the plug on an active search for an industrial investor at the Astra-producing site earlier this week, but union sources in Belgium indicated a potential Chinese investor is ready to step forward.
Any possible rescue however, hinges on a credible business plan being put together – something which appears not to have happened yet.
Nonetheless, Geely’s name has been in the spotlight, following the visit of the Chinese automaker’s chairman Li Shufu to Belgium two days ago (6 October) where he met Flanders minister president Kris Peeters as part of an EU-China summit.
“He [Li Shufu] had a meeting to talk about preserving the Volvo footprint in Belgium and that is it,” people familiar with the situation told just-auto. “The fact Li Shufu was in town – [people] put two and two together and made eight.
“The reality is Geely has given undertakings as part of the Volvo transaction that it will [keep] the footprint in Sweden and Belgium and, when the time is right, consider a third plant in China to assemble vehicles for the local market.”
Some Volvo models are already assembled in China in a Ford-Mazda-Changan JV though that arrangement will end at the end of this year.
Geely already has a significant plant in the Belgian city of Ghent, where it produces a whole range of Volvo brands and the source questioned why the Chinese manufacturer would need another site.
Although the precise identity of any Chinese investor is not known, Peeters nonetheless said his Flanders government was ready to offer loan guarantees should someone come forward for the Antwerp factory, which GM has earmarked to produce its last car on 31 December this year.
“The Flanders government could always give guarantees about loans, that is possible,” said Peters.
“The principle meaning of the Flanders government to provide guarantees is no problem at all.”
Unions involved in the Antwerp plant are due to hold a conference call to discuss the situation today (7 October).