Volvo has been under the ownership of Chinese automotive company Geely for the past 18 months, but it is considered a foreign company under Chinese law because Volvo is still registered and incorporated in Sweden. The non-local status has led nationalist Chinese officials to discourage the use of Volvo as a fleet vehicle. As a means of kicking in the door on that potential $15 billion market, however, Automotive News reports that Volvo has signed New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin on as a spokesman.
Banking on the power of Linsanity
Lin, a 23-year-old Taiwanese-American NBA player whose quality game has spawned an international cult of “Linsanity,” is set to become the Chinese face of Volvo. Geely plans to use Lin’s likeness to help sell its luxury car offerings in both China and the U.S., the two largest automotive markets in the world.
Jeremy Lin has reportedly signed a two-year contract to appear in Volvo advertisements and serve as a brand ambassador across a wide spectrum of endorsements. A press release labeled the partnership “another milestone of Volvo’s revival.”
Volvo aims to quadruple sales in China
Breaking into the Chinese government fleet market would be a tremendous coup for Volvo, but the automaker wants its brand to be on the minds of Chinese consumers, too. With Jeremy Linsanity on its side, Volvo projects that it will be able to more than quadruple Chinese sales within three years. Younger drivers in particular are a target for Lin’s brand of popularity.
“For our region, Jeremy Lin is the pride of the whole Chinese population,” said Freeman Shen, chair of Volvo Car China operations in a written statement.
Globally, Volvo has set a target sales figure of 800,000 vehicles by 2020. By 2015, Volvo wants to have sold 200,000 cars in China. Volvo sold only 47,140 vehicles in China last year, a 54.4 percent increase over 2010.
Yao paved the way for Linsanity
Jeremy Lin and has proven to be insanely popular in China in no small part because former Chinese superstar Yao Ming paved the way for the NBA in China, noted John Zeng, Asia Pacific chief at international auto industry consultancy business LMC Automotive. Ming’s swath of endorsements touched countless aspects of consumer life, and while Jeremy Lin is not the same caliber of player, his clean-cut appearance, Harvard degree and success under the intense New York spotlight have made him a household name.
“You may not immediately see the connection between me and Volvo, but both of us are striving to be better and smarter at what we do, and to do it our own way,” Lin said during a Volvo press conference. “I hope that my efforts will inspire more young people to follow their ambitions in sports and education, just like Volvo Car Corp. is designing cars around people’s ambitions in life.”