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Volvo CEO confident of brand's future

With the Swedish government acting as guarantor on 90 percent of a 5 billion kronor ($853 million AUD) loan - with Volvo having to find a backer for the remaining 10 percent - Volvo CEO Stephen Odell (pictured below) is now confident the future of Volvo is on the up-and-up.
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Speaking from the Geneva Motor Show today, Odell said the loan would be used to fund Volvo's next round of R&D.

Volvo's owner, Ford Motor Company, said in December that it would consider all options for Volvo, including a sale, as it raises cash and focuses on its main brands to ride out the deepest downturn in US industry sales in 27 years. Volvo posted a pre-tax loss of $1.47 billion (USD) last year.

"The brand deserves more and is capable of more. Despite our cost cuts, we have a better cycle plan than we have ever had," Odell said. "While the world has changed, and scale is important, you don't have to be owned to have scale. You can have associations as well. We lost money last year and I can't find a single way to find Ford responsible for that."

Ford of Europe CEO John Fleming said Ford is likely to take some time to decide what to do with Volvo.

"In truth, I don't think this is going to be a quick process, looking at market and economic conditions," Fleming said.

Volvo is the last remaining unit of the company's former premier auto group. Ford previously sold Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover. Fleming said Ford was serious about exploring a range of possibilities for Volvo who continues to have ties to Jaguar and Land Rover.

Fleming was asked whether retaining some stake in Volvo would be a priority.

"I don't think it is a high priority," he said. "It is a factor that we would look at when we talk to anybody, if there is anybody in truth who is going to be interested."

Odell said Volvo may yet be able to survive as an independent entity.

Volvo has also made progress in talks with a key metalworkers' union to be more flexible in negotiations over pay scale and hours, in exchange for a promise of no more layoffs, but has some concerns over possible repercussions to Volvo should rival Swedish brand SAAB fail.

The Swedish government has repeatedly turned down SAAB's request for similar backing of EIB loans.

As both automakers share many small Nordic suppliers who only supply Volvo and SAAB, the loss of SAAB could put the Volvo supply chain at risk.