When car tycoon Li Shufu emerged as a suitor for Volvo Cars a decade ago, few outside China had heard of him. Now the billionaire’s name pops up as soon as there is a whiff of a deal in the industry. Not only did Li’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group snap up Volvo in 2010, he made the acquisition work and followed up with purchases of Lotus Cars, London’s iconic black cabs and a stake in Daimler AG. Last week, Geely emerged as a potential investor in Aston Martin, and last year was approached by the parent of Jaguar Land Rover for a potential tie-up. CES 2020: 24 of the coolest vehicles on display at the tech show Li’s track record of making deals succeed puts Geely in the driver’s seat in Asia as carmakers seek alliances. The industry is facing a tectonic shift toward electrification, self-driving vehicles and mobility services, which are crimping demand for individual car purchases and squeezing out weaker players. “Li Shufu believes the industry doesn’t need so many players in the future,” said Shi Ji, an analyst with Haitong International Securities in Hong Kong. “Geely’s success with Volvo has made it more confident that it can develop faster via mergers.” Defying the odds Li cemented his reputation as a savvy deal maker by reviving Volvo Cars in the face of widespread industry scepticism. He gave the Swedish manufacturer’s engineering team the resources to invest in new models. He also lowered Volvo’s high costs by jointly developing vehicle underpinnings with Geely, while building a plant in China for exports to markets including the United States. “Chinese entrepreneurs see global acquisitions as a fast track of growing their business,” said Xu Haidong, an assistant secretary general of China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. “Geely has demonstrated to the world that they can make it work.” 5 of Bollywood actress Disha Patani’s favourite luxury cars More acquisitions and discussions over the globe ensued. Last year, Geely was approached by the owner of Jaguar Land Rover for a deal over the beleaguered British luxury business, following earlier reported interest in Alfa Romeo and Maserati (something the company denied). Last week, it emerged Geely had held preliminary discussions about a possible investment in Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings. Geely is primarily interested in a technology-sharing deal that could benefit businesses such as Lotus, according to people familiar with the matter. Geely, based in the city of Hangzhou, declined to comment. “The historical trend of economic globalisation is irreversible”, Li said this month. Geely should “work together with international partners” to “seize the technological commanding point through collaboration and sharing”. Li’s investments have prompted other Chinese carmakers to try to emulate his strategy. Beijing Automotive Group bought a 5 per cent stake in Daimler in July and is considering lifting its holding in the Mercedes-Benz maker to as much as 9.9 per cent, people familiar with the matter said last month. Dongfeng Motor Corp acquired a 12 per cent holding in Peugeot maker PSA as part of a 2014 deal. Beyond carmaking A key driver for Geely’s expansion is Li’s vision to transform the conglomerate from a carmaker into a provider of transport services. Geely has developed car-sharing services by itself as well as with Daimler, while betting on flying taxis and high-speed trains. 10 billionaires who chose to drive cheap, modest cars In September, the carmaker led an investment round in air-taxi provider VoloCity, aimed at helping the service launch commercially within three years. In 2018, Li’s company signed an agreement with state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp to build supersonic trains using home-grown technology. “Geely is striving to become a comprehensive transport solutions provider”, rather than just an original equipment manufacturer, said Bill Russo, head of consulting firm Automobility. “They are leveraging an inorganic approach to accelerate their development, and are doing it far better than most traditional OEMs ever have.” Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .