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(LEAD) (Yonhap Interview) Volvo mulls electric trucks for S. Korea

Autos 17:27 April 09, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with minor edits throughout; ADDS photo)

By Choi Kyong-ae

GIMPO, South Korea, April 9 (Yonhap) -- Volvo Trucks, the world's second-biggest heavy-duty truck maker after Daimler Trucks, may consider introducing a zero-emission vehicle in South Korea to meet the demand for environmentally friendly vehicles and to help further cement its leading status in one of its key markets, an executive of the Swedish company said Tuesday.

Volvo Trucks plans to begin producing fully electric trucks for commercial use in some European markets by the end of this year and to roll them out in North America next year.

"We have a number of markets that we are looking at (for the introduction of electric trucks). It is very clear that Korea is a very advanced market with the infrastructure being built up for electrical vehicles, and customers are adopting new technology," Volvo Trucks International Vice President Anna Müller in charge of global sales operations said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

In this photo taken April 9, 2019, Volvo Trucks International Vice President Anna Müller in charge of the Swedish truck maker's international sales speaks during an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Gimpo, just west of Seoul, on the sidelines of a media event to promote Volvo trucks' safety features. (Yonhap)

"We are looking very closely at the Korean market," said Müller, who took over her current post this year. Previously, she served as vice president handling parts and service contracts at Volvo Trucks in Sweden.

In order to help expand the EV market, some conditions should be met -- a well-established charging infrastructure, battery capacity that is available for long trips, fast charging time, incentives and other benefits for electric car users -- she said.

Given that a majority of Volvo truck customers in Korea are individual businesses, "it needs to be a viable business for our customers to go into electric vehicles among others," the executive said.

Volvo Trucks, after starting operations in Korea in 1997, has cemented its leading status in the country's imported commercial vehicle market and has increased its share of the local commercial vehicle market.

Last year, however, Volvo Trucks Korea suffered slowing growth due to a downturn in the construction industry.

The company sold 2,239 trucks in South Korea in 2018, down 23 percent from 2,900 units a year earlier. Volvo Trucks sells heavy-duty trucks that weigh five tons or more in the Korean market.

In contrast, Volvo sold a record 127,000 trucks around the globe last year, up 14 percent from the previous year.

In spite of the slump, Volvo maintained its status as the No. 1 player in the imported commercial vehicle market. Its share of the imported commercial car market rose to 44.9 percent last year from the previous year's 41.2 percent.

"Despite some slowing sales in Korea, South Korea is still among our global markets. ... For Volvo Trucks International, Korea is really the most important market for us as it is one of three equal markets together with South Africa and Australia," Müller said.

But the Volvo Truck executive did not expect a dramatic sales upturn this year given local economic conditions.

To remain a leading player in the local truck market, Volvo Trucks said it will continue to introduce new technology into Korea early.

"That's one of our success factors. (That's why) our position has strengthened a lot even though the market has come down," she said.

Volvo's electric garbage truck, the FL Electric (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr

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