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Volvo Moves To Phase Out Combustion Engine For Electric Motors Starting In 2019


Volvo, the maker of sturdy, boxy, safe, if sometimes boring cars is going electric. The Swedish car company says all of its vehicles will have electric technology by 2019. NPR's Sonari Glinton has more.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: There are essentially three big stories in the car business right now - electric cars, China and self-driving. And this one story has all three. Here's Volvo's CEO, Hakan Samuelsson, to kick off the electric part of this story.

HAKAN SAMUELSSON: We are making a strategic change in the future of our development. All cars released to the market after 2019 will be electrified.

BRIAN MOODY: Well, it is a big deal on the one hand. But on the other hand, it sort of depends on what they mean by all-electric.

GLINTON: Brian Moody is with Autotrader. Now, Volvo says it's not exactly going to be Tesla overnight. Essentially the company will move to have all its cars be fully electric plug-in hybrids or hybrids. The company is easing away from the internal combustion engine. And Moody says increasingly we probably won't notice.

MOODY: It will begin even more so the idea of mainstreaming electric cars to the point where we're just thinking of the car and how it works regardless of how it's powered.

GLINTON: OK, now the China part. Joel Levin is with Plug In America. It's a group that advocates for electric car drivers. Volvo has a Chinese owner, Geely. And Levin says China right now is full steam ahead when it comes to electric cars.

JOEL LEVIN: My expectation is that a lot of these cars that Volvo is going to be producing are intended for the Chinese market, not for the U.S. market. So partly, Volvo is making a deeper commitment to the Chinese market with electric cars.

GLINTON: All right, let's count here - electric, China. Oh, Brian Moody with Autotrader says if the cars are electric, it's easier for them to drive themselves.

MOODY: The self-driving car leader needs to have a certain amount of electrification in the car. The more crude a car is, the more analog, for lack of a better word, that a car is, the harder it's going to be to produce these systems that will make it drive by itself.

GLINTON: The analysts say Volvo won't move to electric cars immediately. It'll be gradual. They'll slide in there. Sonari Glinton, NPR News.


MARCIA GRIFFITHS: (Singing) You got to feel it.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) It's electric. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.