Ford is still expected to sign an agreement to sell Volvo to China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group by the end of this month, according to the Briton in charge of the Swedish carmaker, Stephen Odell. Ford expects to finalise a deal by 31 March and complete the sale by 30 June.

Odell added that he expects engineering and manufacturing to remain in Europe into the future.

“I’m sure Geely will add manufacturing facilities for us in China which will boost opportunities for us in what has become the largest car market in the world.”

While the wait for the deal to be finalised continues, Odell said that global sales in the first two months of this year were up 27% over the same period a year ago.

“We still have some down-time in production but we are starting to fill that. We have not really seen much benefit from scrappage schemes but the segments of the market in which we compete are showing signs of improvement.”

Odell said he was confident that Volvo will sell more than the 334,000 vehicles it delivered in 2009.
It launched its redesigned S60 at Geneva, describing the car as its sportiest-ever vehicle.

The new model introduces the first volume application of Volvo’s pedestrian safety system which alerts the driver and can automatically bring the vehicle to a stop at speeds of up to 35km/h if it determines a collision is imminent.

Built on a shortened version of the S80 platform, the new S60 is slightly larger than its predecessor and features a host of other safety systems including advanced stability control designed to identify potential skids earlier.

Odell added, however, that safety on its own will not sell Volvos.

“Our cars are becoming more exciting to drive and more appealing to look at. If you can have industry-leading environmental and safety and wrap it into a desirable shape then that is compelling.”

Volvo aims to sell 90,000 S60s per year. The car will be made at Ghent in Belgium and goes on sale early this summer.