Ford Motor is close to an agreement to preserve trade secrets at its Volvo brand as the Swedish unit is sold to China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.
"Almost all the outstanding issues have been resolved," said Tim Burt, a Geely spokesman. "Geely will gain access to all technology throughout the current model range and for those already in development, which are necessary for Volvo to continue for its current business plan."
The technology being held back includes new environmental and safety gear, said two people familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified revealing private discussions. A Volvo sale agreement may be signed next month, one person said. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally is seeking to strike a balance between keeping the Swedish division viable, while protecting intellectual property. Ford plans to sell engines to Volvo for as long as a decade, a profitable venture for the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker, the person said.
Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth declined to give details of the technology sharing plans with Geely, which Ford designated in October as the "preferred bidder". Ford said on December 23 the companies had agreed on "substantial commercial terms" for a Volvo sale.
"We want to make sure that if we sell the business, we sell it as a going concern," Booth said in in Detroit yesterday at the North American International Auto Show. "We need to ensure they have technological support until they can develop it themselves or find it from someone else."
Ford needs Volvo to stay healthy as a supplier of diesel engines for vehicles built in Europe, Booth said.
"We need to make sure when we sell these assets that they still have a good future," Booth said.
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