The Geely group, which signed a deal on Sunday to buy Volvo from US auto giant Ford, began as a refrigerator parts supplier but, in just two decades, has grown into one of China's largest private carmakers.

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group - based in Hangzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang - launched its auto manufacturing business in 1997.

Chairman Li Shufu, who founded the company in 1986, is an engineer by training. He ranked 123rd on last year's Hurun Rich List of China's wealthiest people, with a fortune of $US1 billion ($A1.1 billion).

Today, Geely is a fully integrated independent auto firm with assets of more than 14 billion yuan ($A2.2 billion). It has a workforce of 12,000 people, including 1600 engineers.

It operates six car assembly and power-train manufacturing plants across China with a combined production capacity of 300,000 cars per year. The firm also owns nearly 500 dealerships and 600 service stations in the country.

Geely has an overseas sales and service network of nearly 300 outlets and runs plants in several foreign countries including Ukraine, Russia and Indonesia. Overseas sales have totalled less than 200,000 units.

The firm claims to be the only Chinese car manufacturer to have developed its own range of engines - with eight variants sized between one litre and 1.8 litres.

Geely Automobile Holdings Limited, an arm of the group, is listed in Hong Kong. In September it announced a $US334 million ($A368.13 million) investment from a private equity fund controlled by the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, in a step widely seen by analysts as aimed at raising cash for a Volvo bid.

The Goldman Sachs fund would end up with a 15.1 per cent stake in the Hong Kong-listed arm if it fully converts the bonds and warrants into stock, the carmaker said in a statement.