Volvo has become the first automaker in the world to export China made cars to Europe by train via China’s new ‘One Belt, One Road’ trade initiative.
The first S90 premium sedans, built at its Daqing plant in China, will arrive at a distribution centre in Zeebrugge, Belgium today, May 31.
The cars have been transported to Belgium via the recently opened, China-Europe railway link. The connection brings down the time it takes to transport vehicles to Europe by two thirds compared with the naval route, meaning customers receive their car faster after ordering.
The train route ties Volvo’s global manufacturing and logistics strategy to the multi-billion euro trade flows between China and Europe and the so-called One Belt, One Road initiative that seeks to resurrect the age old Silk Road trade route for a new era of global trade.
The railway link also illustrates how China is turning into a global manufacturing and export hub for high-end consumer products.
Volvo was the first Western car maker to export a premium China-made car to the US in 2015 with the S60 Inscription. In November of last year Volvo started building high-end versions of its S90 premium sedan in Daqing for global exports, and will soon be building all S90 vehicles in the factory for global export.
Beyond shorter waiting times for customers, rail is also a smarter choice in terms of the environmental impact of logistics operations. Given the same distance the CO2 emissions per tonne/km are reduced by a third by choosing rail over sea transport. In this case the savings will be even higher based on the shorter distance.
Each of the trains traveling between Daqing and Zeebrugge can carry around 120 Volvo cars, which are transported in specially designed containers. One container can hold up to three cars at different angles in order to maximize the use of space available inside and special fixtures ensure that the cars are fastened during transport and do not move.
Initially, trains will depart from Daqing once a week. In the future, Volvo plan is to increase this frequency in line with growing volumes.