Whatever reservations Ford may have had about selling Volvo to Geely and potentially exposing all of its competitive secrets to pirate-infested Chinese markets, they appear to have been laid to rest … for now.
The U.S. automaker named a Geely-led consortium as preferred bidder for the money-losing Swedish unit, estimated to be worth about $2 billion. The news is conspicuously coincidental — as many such stories are — with intensely routine negotiations in Hangzhou between top trade officials of the two countries. Naturally, Ford left open the possibility that it could back out of the deal, saying more detailed talks were needed.
It’s been nearly a year since Ford began efforts to sell Volvo, and only a week ago a source was telling us that concerns about intellectual property rights were threatening to scupper the deal. That followed news of a former Ford engineer’s arrest in the United States on charges of stealing trade secrets from Ford and using them to try to get work with Chinese auto makers. Good thing Volvo is such a safe brand; even with a preferred bidder in place, this asset sale could prove to be a wild ride.