Volvo Cars continues to stand out as a pioneer within the auto space. With our sustainability commitment OMTANKE firmly embedded in our business, we are finding solutions to the disruptions being posed around electrification, connectivity, mobility services and autonomous driving (AD). This year we have laid out clear strategies in each of these areas, but before elaborating on them, let me recap on developments in our core business during 2017.
The Chinese passenger car market remains the fastest growing market worldwide, and Volvo Cars performed very well in China in 2017, breaking the 100,000 unit threshold for the first time. With car plants in Chengdu, Luqiao and Daqing, as well as a stable dealer network, we are driving greater awareness of our product quality, technology, brand values and Scandinavian heritage. We continued to increase sales in Europe where the market remained strong. We are particularly pleased with 6 per cent increase in Sweden selling almost 75,000 cars against market growth of 2 per cent.
Overall, the US market was softer this year than last. Our sales during the first half of 2017 declined, but during the second half, we saw a positive sales development, almost ending the year on the same level as 2016. We are opening our new factory in Charleston later in 2018 and we believe a stronger presence in the market will have a positive bearing on sales going forward.
I am very pleased with the successful ramp up of production of the new XC60 after the very impressive launch at the beginning of the year. As of December, the XC60 is now being built in both Gothenburg, Sweden, and in Chengdu, China. Recently, it was named the car with the best overall performance by the prestigious Euro NCAP 2017 Best in Class safety awards. This adds to a list of achievements that exemplify our commitment to our vision that no one should be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo car by 2020.
By launching the XC40 we have a complete SUV offering for the first time. Production started in November at our plant in Ghent, Belgium, and the car will come to market in the beginning of 2018.
The XC40 launch brought with it the launch of Care by Volvo, our response to flexible mobility. The aim is to give our customers more freedom – without having to own a car. I believe subscription services are one way forward as new mobility solutions continue its rapid development.
For subscription services and AD, connectivity and digitalisation are essential. Being a small player in this sector, we have chosen to make a virtue of our agility in forming a number of strong and mutually beneficial partnerships during the year.
Our collaborations are all with experts in their respective areas. Developing the software required for AD, we have joined up with Autoliv, which is a world leading automotive safety company, and set up a joint venture - Zenuity. Importantly, we believe that we can benefit from commercialising our AD technology as Zenuity will sell its products to other OEMs in the future.
With Uber we are developing the redundant base cars needed for AD. We have also agreed to sell up to 24,000 cars to them for their AD taxi service. Uber is already using XC90s for its self-driving tests, reflecting the strength of our credentials and commitment to becoming the supplier of choice for AD ride-sharing services globally.
On electrification, our strategy, laid out in July 2017, is that all new Volvo cars launched from 2019 will be hybrids or all electric. We think we have a very firm advantage with our progressive, pure electric performance brand Polestar already having started construction at its first plant in Chengdu, China. This clear move towards electrification also underlines our commitment to low carbon mobility, as well as our belief that a sustainable approach is key to our future success. In this respect, I am pleased to report that Volvo Cars is an active supporter of the United Nations Global Compact.
In 2018, we foresee continued growth both in revenue and retail sales. We are launching and ramping up production of our last two models on the SPA platform, the V60 and the S60. The latter will be built in the new factory in Charleston, US. We will also ramp up production of the XC40 and we are looking forward to its reception when it reaches our customers. In addition to our core business of building and selling cars, we will continue to develop business areas within subscription services, as well as embrace the business opportunities provided through electrification and AD. This, we expect, will result in improved 2018 profits while we will continue to lead the way in responding to the disruptive challenges in our industry.
President and Chief Executive Officer