Volvo Car chief Stephen Odell may step down after Zhejiang Geely Holding takes over, according to board members at the Swedish carmaker.

Odell has been at the helm at Volvo since 2008 but is a 30-year Ford veteran, having joined in Britain in 1980 as a trainee. Magnus Sundemo, the board member who head’s Volvo’s engineering union, said the CEO is tipped to be the next head of Ford of Europe.

Professional workers union leader Thomas Ivonen told Bloomberg News: “Odell’s been with Ford so long and is loyal to it; that’s where his heart is. I feel certain he will remain with Ford.”

Geely is buying Volvo from Ford for US$1.8bn in the biggest overseas purchase by a Chinese automaker. Odell, as well as Geely and Ford executives, declined to say whether he will stay on when they announced the sale at the weelend.

Odell, 55, was named head of Volvo in September 2008. Before that he was Ford’s European operations chief, and had been vice president of marketing sales and service in the region for almost three years. He previously worked at Ford affiliate Mazda Motor and led the North American marketing division for Jaguar.

Ford said, however, that Odell will remain the CEO of Volvo Cars through the transition period over the coming months.

Volvo sold 334,808 cars worldwide last year, down 11% from 2008 and 27% from a peak of 460,000 in 2007. However US sales have risen for nine consecutive months and increased 40% in the first two months of the year.