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Interview: Volvo shows faith in EVs, promises lineup electrification by 2020

Volvo is going all in with electrification, targetting 1 million electrified cars on the road by 2025.

The company is aiming for fully electric cars to make up 50% of its sales by 2025 Volvo started selling EVs in Lebanon in 2015 "When automakers begin producing electric vehicles, markets should- WILL adapt" -Gergi El Murr, COO, Volvo

With the Middle East’s first ever e-MotorShow wrapping up today in Beirut, AMEinfo got in touch with one of the participating car brands at the event: Volvo.

Volvo is very big on EVs (electric vehicles) at the moment, stating in 2018 that the company is aiming for fully electric cars to make up 50% of its sales by 2025.

AMEinfo sat down with Léa Assaf, Marketing Manager, and Gergi El Murr, COO at GAA & CO S.A.L. (Volvo’s dealer in Lebanon) to discuss the Middle East’s readiness for EVs, and how electric cars will come to be mainstream.

In part 1 of this interview, we discuss everything EVs, from MENA readiness, to pricing, to Volvo’s sales of electric vehicles. In part 2, we explore how Volvo will prevent any deaths or serious injuries in their cars by 2020.

What are Volvo’s objectives from participating at the e-MotorShow this year? 

Assaf: Our participation objectives are to raise awareness about Volvo Car’s Electrification Strategy and generate sales if possible.

Have you started selling EVs in Lebanon yet?

Assaf: We started selling back in 2015.

El Murr: It’s important to know that there are two kinds of electric cars. There’s the hybrid, and within the hybrid, there are two categories. In the parallel hybrid (the most common type of hybrid), one engine (internal combustion or electric) takes control of running the car from the other engine automatically. Then, there’s the car we are working with, which is the plug-in hybrid. With a plug-in, both engines can function together.

Volvo produces cars in the plug-in hybrid category, which allows the driver to start the car with both engines active at the same time, or each individually. You can make this back-and-forth switch while driving as well, not only when turning the car on.

The other branch of electric is the fully electric vehicle. Volvo just introduced a new EV, The Polestar 2 in addition to the Polestar 1 revealed on the 17th of October 2017.

According to El Murr, Volvo promises that starting from 2020, the entirety of its lineup will be available in electric

Assaf: By 2025, at least 50% of Volvo Global’s sales will be derived from EVs. We hope to replicate this figure in Lebanon as well, and we believe we might be able to exceed it. It all depends on consumer demand for EVs locally.

El Murr: We feel that there is an appetite for EVs in the Lebanese market, based on the questions we’re receiving from [current] customers and potential customers. These people want to own an electric vehicle. In the [premium] segment of the market, there is a demand for EVs.

What is your opinion of the Middle East in terms of EV readiness, whether it’s Lebanon, the UAE, or elsewhere in the region? 

El Murr: Every market has its own specificity. It starts with the decision makers – the lawmakers – to prepare the market for such a drastic change in industry.

Everyone will follow. It’s an obligation, because production will change. When automakers begin producing electric vehicles, markets should- WILL adapt.

Last year, the Lebanese government announced that purely electric vehicles were now exempted from custom taxes, while customs on hybrids and plug-ins was now 20%. This is a great move that will help the industry to grow.

What about the prices of EVs? 

At the launch of every new product, the price will be high. When you reach volume, the price would be much more competitive.

This whole process will be cheaper on manufacturers with volume, which will impact the price of the car for the customer. So yes, EVs will start at a higher price.