Volvo Will Monetize Autonomous Vehicles Before Driver Data, CEO Hakan Samuelsson Says

Volvo's Hakan Samuelsson
Volvo's Hakan Samuelsson by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News

Volvo has gone to unique lengths at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show to demonstrate how tech-savvy it is. There are no cars on display at the automaker’s stand — just multicolored couches and cardboard delivery boxes hinting at its partnerships with Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Amazon Inc.

But when it comes to the future of the auto industry, CEO Hakan Samuelsson sounds relatively old-fashioned. He’s betting Volvo will make more money selling connected, autonomous cars to consumers and robo-taxi fleets, rather than taking a cut of the higher margin business of selling data-driven services inside the vehicle.

“Whatever you have in the phone, you would like to have very seamless into the car, and we will make money by making an attractive car and selling more cars, rather than trying to take a fee on the information and the communication,” he said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “That would be the wrong approach.”

Most automakers have tried to keep Google and Apple Inc. at arm’s length, hoping to keep control of such valuable data as a driver’s whereabouts, driving patterns, shopping preferences and infotainment use. The companies also have sought to forge their own commercial partnerships to sell connected services rather than let tech players including Google cash in.

Volvo was among the first to agree to use Google’s Android operating system, letting Alphabet’s software control mapping, navigation, infotainment and a suite of apps in the dashboard. Most carmakers allow only Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay, which project a limited number of apps onto the vehicle’s touchscreen after a passenger has plugged in a smartphone.

The Swedish automaker’s premium electric-car brand, Polestar, also has signed on to use the Android operating system, Samuelsson said.