Home » I Love Minivans But The Electric Volvo EM90 Feels Like A Lazy Rebadge For The Chinese Market

I Love Minivans But The Electric Volvo EM90 Feels Like A Lazy Rebadge For The Chinese Market

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Alright class, welcome back to Roger B. Smithology 101. We’ll get into today’s scheduled lesson in a few minutes, but there’s been a development in badge engineering I’d like to discuss with you. The Volvo EM90, an electric luxury minivan for the Chinese market, has leaked through China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and it feels like something GM would’ve done pre-bankruptcy. Don’t believe me? Take a closer look.

Zeekr 009

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

This is one of the sloppiest rebadges since the GM Crossover Sport Vans, since aside from the front clip, the wheels, and some badging, the outside of the Volvo EM90 is identical to the Zeekr 009, pictured above. Zeekr is another Geely-owned brand, and although pretty much every car manufacturer employs some form of platform-sharing, sharing this much bodywork between two models was widely considered passé around the time of the Great Recession. Between the Volvo and the Zeekr, the quarter panels look the same, the doors look the same, the greenhouse looks the same, the rear bumper looks the same, even the mirrors look the same. It’s clear that a relatively small budget went into this product, and that doesn’t spell out great things for its intended market.

As a result, Volvo had to stretch some of its styling signatures over a body that doesn’t quite fit. The signature crisp haunches just don’t exist, the greenhouse is messy, and the door handles look more Hyundai Entourage than anything. I particularly dislike how the lens for the reversing camera isn’t even tucked underneath the liftgate trim, as we should’ve just left the trend of exposed cameras in 2007. There’s a weird whiff of low-rent to the EM90’s styling, despite it starting life as a luxury product already, and despite Volvo trying to class things up.

Volvo Em90 Rear

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Since the Volvo EM90 is just a Zeekr 009, expect a choice of 116 kWh or 140 kWh battery packs providing either 436 miles or 510 miles on China’s market-specific and laughably optimistic CLTC range certification cycle. Also on the expected docket? Proper luxury rear seating, although we’ll have to see how much Scandinavian minimalism makes it into the final product. The cabin of the Zeekr 009 looks incredibly well-appointed but exceptionally generic, as you can see below, so let’s hope all the development budget for this thing went into the interior styling.

Zeekr 009 Interior

From this position, the EM90 feels like it was foisted on Volvo by Geely in an odd moment of regional weirdness. Outside of China, there just aren’t many places where this vehicle would fly, so perhaps that’s why changes over the Zeekr 009 are so minimal. Needless to say, the Volvo EM90 would be a horrible brand mismatch for the American market, so don’t expect to see it here anytime soon. This minivan makes a great Zeekr, but nothing about it seems particularly Volvo.

(Photo credits: China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Zeekr)

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Jeremy Aber
Jeremy Aber
8 months ago

Maybe I’m the crazy one, but I think this looks way better than the Zeekr version (which I don’t think looks bad, but I’m not exactly in love with the front end treatment). It’s not great that the body work is essentially identical, but I would be willing to bet that Volvo has upgraded the interior quite a bit too. Whatever else you can say about it, it’s a brick with a Volvo badge on it, so it seems thematically appropriate at least.

Greg
Greg
8 months ago

You guys constantly take shots at people like Musk, meanwhile pump out these chinese shit product articles and celebrate slave labor and human rights abuses left and right.

Who is this article for? Do you have a large Chinese readership we don’t know about?

Why do you almost never seem to cover new cars that are coming in America, but have plenty of ones we will never see and dozens of “Look at this stupid car I bought for some clicks” articles?

Last edited 8 months ago by Greg
I drive a boring SUV
I drive a boring SUV
8 months ago
Reply to  Greg

Maybe we’re reading different articles, but this one reads to me clearly as a “shot” at Geely/Zeekr for half-arsing this “Volvo”.

As for the content, we are here for the weird stuff, the wrenching, and the geeky engineering deep dives; if you want to read about the new cars coming to America, you can do so in Car and Driver, I guess.

Greg
Greg
8 months ago

fair enough.

Industrial_design_guy
Industrial_design_guy
8 months ago
Reply to  Greg

I usually go to Motor1.com for new car info. This site is much better for quirky stories, like boring suv said

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 months ago
Reply to  Greg

> do you almost never seem to cover new cars that are coming in America

False. Fisker, Tesla (Cybertruck), misc Ford trucks, Vinfast, Prelude, RAM, Subaru, Jeep, and more have received coverage and even behind other wheel reviews.

> but have plenty of ones we will never see

Fair, for some definition of “plenty.” That said, some trends from abroad are cool to see, and sometimes we do get them here in some form. And besides, they’re cars, therefore inherently interesting.

> Dozens of “Look at this stupid car I bought for some clicks” articles?

Dozens? Doubtful. The only truly stupid car bought for bizarre reasons is DT’s Leaf. Cactus is a Tracy thing, he’s always done that (see the Euro van). The Changli is old and gets very little coverage except when Torch takes a chainsaw to it.

The other Autopian car is the Ski Klasse and it’s arguably not stupid.

Mercedes, Gossin, David, Torch, even Rob Spiteri always buy bizarre or fucked up cars for sport, or fun, or transportation. They’re car nuts. They’d do it even if they didn’t write about them for a living. Gossin and Rob have day jobs and have been doing the stupid car thing since before this site was started. Torch used to drive a Scimitar in LA before he got the writing gig at the old site.

So I think you’re being mostly unfair and inaccurate.

Besides, you can always not read the article.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bite Me
Bite Me
8 months ago
Reply to  Greg

If talking about Chinese made stuff means that you’re celebrating slave labor and human rights abuses, then there are virtually no cars that don’t share those sins. I’m betting your comment history doesn’t reflect that reality though, especially considering that you were too lazy to even read this article.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago

I haven’t shared my wisdom on this before, except to state sending money to China to purchase a vehicle built with stolen technology and slave labor that will UAW Members as well as actually well employed trained employees around the world is a bad idea. But now that the Chinese Government Auto Manufacturers have begun to show they are using the same scam to sell cars as they have used to sell cheap crappy electronics I am here. For years the Chinese have bought old electronics brands names and have sold Chinese junk under American brands and quality brands names. It is not a surprise slave labor but products are poor quality. They have used this same plan to sell toothpaste with low level poison on the commercial products level prisons and hospitals and senior centers. They have made drywall with cancer causing materials and sold them to Lowes and Home Depot to rebuild houses in Texas and New Orleans after hurricanes destroyed the areas and government oversight was minimal. But now the Chinese government under the Geely name has bought brand name quality cars and have begun selling cars and now junk under their name. I won’t pay my hard earned dollars to a country that enslaves people and uses stolen tech then uses poor material to sell me junk. And if you wouldn’t buy a set of stolen tires you shouldn’t buy any of these. At least the stolen tires are quality.

Goblin
Goblin
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Volvo is still engineered in Sweden and whatever boilerplate design studio they must have in California like everybody and their brother, and from the cars sold in the US only the s90 is built in China. The rest comes from Sweden, Belgium and the USA.

While giving technologies to the enemy is not a good thing, amalgamating company ownership with state intents is a bit of a stretch, especially for a brand that is not exaclty the most sold brand in the US.

As for the alternatives to the “Chinese invasion” Volvo trojan horse – I don’t have to look that far away to find killer instict:
The GM ignition switch affair, where defects were ignored and burried till they could no longer be hidden, killed 150+ people, tragically – mostly younger kids, as said module was mostly mounted in small cars that tend to be a first car for young drivers.

And selling toothpaste that kills kids (the Chinese did do that in South America) because someone wanted to save a buck on sweeteners and used antifreeze instead of sweeteners) pales compared to a car which does the following when the ignition key falls from the ignition switch, in this order:

Cut off engine > lose all power steerting and power / ABS brakes > disable airbags. And if you’re the lotto winner and have a heavy set of keys on the same keychain string as the ignition key – it could turn all the way off to be released and fall off the ingnition lock, which would in turn logck the steering wheel while driving.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfMS4U4WOCY

So my heartfelt congrats to the UAW, but I am not at all sure who I’d pick to build my car – them or a Chinese worker.

Selling you a great car that is the safest, dominating your market, giving you a good deal then using that money to really hurt you with something really hurtful – like kicking you out of areas of dominance and influence which were yours till yesterday, is much more efficient for them than killing you in a Volvo, or making you breathe carcinogenic panels from Lowes.

Canada sold azbestos to countries where it was still allowed for use till a few years ago, if not nowadays.

Last edited 8 months ago by Goblin
Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
8 months ago
Reply to  Goblin

It’s also worth mentioning that Geely is privately held by its CEO Li Shufu. I’m not here to debate whether that’s a good thing or not, but it isn’t state-owned the same way the Chinese ‘big-four’ FAW, Dongfeng, Changan, and SAIC (which is deeply affiliated with GM, let’s not forget) are completely nationalized.

Monolithic Juggernaut
Monolithic Juggernaut
8 months ago

They, and most SOEs in China, are not completely nationalized, you can buy shares in them. You just cannot but a controlling stake in them.

JunkerDave
JunkerDave
8 months ago

Sure, and there are industries in the US where foreigners are not allowed to buy a controlling stake, too.

Monolithic Juggernaut
Monolithic Juggernaut
8 months ago
Reply to  JunkerDave

An individual Chinese person will not be allowed to buy a controlling stake in ICBC.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago
Reply to  Goblin

I appreciate your logical approach to my TV Show and sci-fi books approach to what could happen.

Goblin
Goblin
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Oh, misunderstand me not, they ARE out to get you 🙂
Just not with Volvos.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 months ago
Reply to  Goblin

I’m in agreement with you, but I have to say the melamine in baby formula thing was particularly egregious.

And people have the gall to say regulation is bad.

Also: people say about China what they used to say about Korea and Japan. Like it or not, globalization is a thing, and Chinese factories are entirely capable of producing high quality goods.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Goblin
Goblin
8 months ago

Both Korea and Japan were and are allies, and whatever competition there was was purely economical. With China, there’s the ideological issue of the wealth they build being used against the West politically and strategically.

My guess is the West relies of the fact that there have not been so far countries where wealth building and real technological progress and know-how have not lead to political changes. Interesting times.

Bite Me
Bite Me
8 months ago
Reply to  Goblin

Is the UAW responsible for bad engineering?

Goblin
Goblin
8 months ago
Reply to  Bite Me

I didn’t know engineers were not allowed to be UAW members

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Chinese companies aren’t even in the same zip code compared to Western ones. See: Bhopal; “The Constant Gardener,” etc.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago
Reply to  SNL-LOL Jr

I know John LeCarre wrote a fictional book by that name decades ago. I don’t doubt it could happen but it is not even based on a true story. Using this as proof, I could counter any other fictional book. As for China VS USA we have the benefit of an semi independent media VS China near total control over their population. We still can’t find the information on the lab that produced Covid that Fauci totally lied about. Has been proven yet many people still have not read or heard about.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

And before that All American companies put lead in gasoline and paint, asbestos in all the things, pushed breakfast cereals containing 50% sugar on kids, got the world (including the Chinese) hooked on tobacco, pushed unnecessarily huge gas guzzlers while actively undermining public transport, continued to burn filthy coal and oil long after cleaner energy options had become available, etc etc all the while knowing full well the detriment to health, the environment of those products and not giving a crap AND doing everything they possibly could to hide that fact.

Something rocks, something something glass house…

FYI In the case of that toothpaste scandal China EXECUTED its former chief food and drug regulator for accepting bribes. The execution was widely interpreted as a sign of China’s contrition over the export of tainted products whereas a US official who did the same thing MIGHT spend a few years in jail.

https://www.dentist.net/pages/dn-article97

Last edited 8 months ago by Cheap Bastard
Bite Me
Bite Me
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I won’t pay my hard earned dollars to a country that enslaves people and uses stolen tech then uses poor material to sell me junk

So US manufacturing is off the table too

10001010
10001010
8 months ago

“Zeekr 009” seems like it would be more fun to say than “Volvo EM90”.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Yeah do that while sitting on the side of the road for 3 hours.

changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
8 months ago
Reply to  10001010

EM90 sounds like one of the guns in Starfield

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
8 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Zeekr sounds like it should be a 90s fruit flavored corn syrup drink with x-treme marketing

A. Barth
A. Barth
8 months ago

Please tell me they have an EM50 in that model line.

Torque
Torque
8 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

What kind of training have you boys been doing son!?! 🙂

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
8 months ago

they should sell it here

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
8 months ago

I love minivans too, and I didn’t mind the Zeekr, but yeah, Volvo is just trying to rebadge for a chunk of the market.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
8 months ago

Wouldn’t this dilute the brand? I’ve said this on at least one other article, I don’t understand these conglomerates pushing every brand into every niche. Why sell a Lotus SUV when you have 6 other brands? Why badge engineer a minivan for a company that has zero van history?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
8 months ago

Part of it is different dealer franchises. They see what the other ones are getting from the same parent company and demand their own version.

Part of it is each brand has specific sales and earnings targets set by corporate that they’re expected to meet, and if they can’t do it with the products in their existing niche(s), they have no other choice but to expand into new ones.

If Lotus is told they need to get their annual sales up to 20,000 a year, but they consistently struggle to sell much more than 1,600 a year with an all-sports car lineup, than their only choices are to either miss their goal and incur the wrath of Geely upper management (and Geely’s institutional shareholders), or expand into a market that might actually be able to move 20,000 vehicles, which would be a CUV.

The only brands that might be content to stay within their existing niches and be happy with whatever sales they can get would, at this point, have to be very small, independent, privately held boutique-style companies, like maybe Morgan.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

I always think of Porsche in the 2000s here.

A Morgan SUV would be hilarious yet compelling. I expect it would be maybe a worked-over Mini of some sort maybe?

Torque
Torque
8 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

I mean there may be zero history of Volvo minivans or MPVs, but Volvo has a very Long history of selling very popular upscale, rounded corner “flying brick” 2 box wagons/avants.
This mpv is really a larger 1 box design that while a direct (exterior physical copy of a Zeekr)… it IS hypothetically maximizing interior space for people and stuff.
And given the popularity of luxury MPVs in many parts of Asia And given Mercedes is giving the Luxury MPV a go… I can totally understand Geely wanting to try to sell an upscale MPV branded as a Volvo.
And I agree most of the distinction in “Volvo” design could be largely covered by what I hope will be a unique Volvo stylized interior

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
8 months ago

Arguably the Duett is at least van-adjacent, particularly in panel form:

https://veh-markets.com/uploads/postfotos/volvo-544-panel-wagon-p210-duett-7.JPG

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

I’ll grant you that.

Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
8 months ago

If Volvo had introduced a minivan in the early ’90s (peak minivan) they would have sold every one they could build.

changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
8 months ago
Reply to  Tim Cougar

waiting for the Bishop to take an 850 wagon and stretch the beltline and roofline up by 40%

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
8 months ago

China. No one there wants a Lotus sports car (well, few do) but they want that aura of ‘sportiness’ while being chauffeured to their next meeting. Likewise no one there wants to sit in the backseat of a Volvo wagon, but sell a minivan with that badge on the front and they won’t care that it’s not a ‘true Volvo’ underneath while keeping brand sales up in one of the most important auto markets in the world.

Last edited 8 months ago by Alexander Moore
Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
8 months ago

Is Geely doing to Volvo what GM did to Saab?

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
8 months ago

No, because Geely cars from the Lynk & Co brand to the new London cab all use Volvo’s engines and architecture. If GM had allowed Saab to do that maybe they’d still be around, but Saab unfortunately was in the wrong place in the wrong time. They didn’t have their own engine to offer (yet), and none of their platforms were modern or competitive. Rather than giving them the money to develop all of that like Geely did for Volvo, GM just foisted Opel parts onto Saab and said, ‘Here, make do.’

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
8 months ago

Saab’s all-time best sales year before GM invested in them was 134,000 cars, and that had happened 6 years before General Motors acquired a 50% stake, so they had already peaked and started declining years before GM got involved. You can’t justify bespoke platforms for such low volumes at those prices, Saab couldn’t justify it themselves, either, which is why they sold out to GM and why their newest model at the time was already shared with Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Lancia.

Volvo was selling over 400,000 units a year when Ford bought them and had a longer track record of recent financial successes, which allowed them to make ongoing investments in R&D. GM bought a declining brand with no product pipeline that was badly in need of capital, Ford bought a stable, successful business that needed to be maintained and grown further and already had things to offer the rest of the company.

Last edited 8 months ago by Ranwhenparked
Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
8 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Yep, exactly.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
8 months ago

I don’t know, it looks boxy, but it’s good.

JunkerDave
JunkerDave
8 months ago

Eh, I think the face is pretty ugly, but I drive a Soul so I obviously don’t care a lot. And have no idea what the Chinese market considers to be beautiful, other than it should be red & gold.

CUlater
CUlater
8 months ago

Well played crazy people reference.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago

This should be a daily feature – an example (past, present, or future) of a vehicle can could be described for a valid reason as “Meh.” A Ford Edge, most Toyota Camrys, any badge engineering, whatever comes to mind.

Maybe some comment wars, but the most humorous outcome would be no comments, b/c meh.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Remember Meh Car Monday? That’s what we need here, under a different name.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago

Jeeze, I totally forgot about that – clearly what I was thinking of!

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 months ago

We MUST have it. I demand it.

Torpid Car Tuesday
“Whatever” Car Wednesday
Thalamic Car Thursday
Flat Car Friday
Stultifying Car Saturday
Soporific Car Sunday

Torque
Torque
8 months ago

“Manic car Monday” 🙂

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
8 months ago

1. because it is.

2. the Zeekr is so much better looking.

Alexk98
Alexk98
8 months ago

I mean if Volvo does some lazy re-badges overseas to bring in extra cash that helps them pump into cooler models that come stateside I wont complain, but man does it looked phoned in, like Mercury Mountaineer levels of phoned in.

Monolithic Juggernaut
Monolithic Juggernaut
8 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

At least it was a phoned in improvement. This is Saabaru territory.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
8 months ago

“…aside from the front clip, the wheels, and some badging…”

A new front clip and wheels? Still not as lazy as the DAF 66 to Volvo 66 rebadging, then (for which I am grateful, as it does help with parts availability).

Timbales
Timbales
8 months ago

That’s a comparable rebadge job to the VW Routan.

Rippstik
Rippstik
8 months ago
Reply to  Timbales

Came here to say this

Brandt S
Brandt S
8 months ago
Reply to  Timbales

Was thinking the same thing.

J Hyman
J Hyman
8 months ago
Reply to  Timbales

German engineering! (Badge engineering apparently counted.)

Kasey
Kasey
8 months ago
Reply to  Timbales

At least they changed the rear glass for the Routan

DadBod
DadBod
8 months ago

Where’s an electric minivan for the US?? Boo. I’ll take boring!

Torque
Torque
8 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

Exactly! What I’m looking for!
I know the sales trends set by the normies (who actually lease/buy new), mean everything has to be a cuv or suv (or look like a cuv/suv…)

still for a big 6-8 seater, the closest are the R1S and EV9 and those are definitely Not MPVs!

Minivans/MPVs Make the most sense, and for the <1% of "must go off road for all the things" there could be a x-road package with a 2nd ev motor on the front + adjustable air ride …

Last edited 8 months ago by Torque
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