Two of Sweden’s biggest private employers are located in Gothenburg – Volvo Cars and Volvo Group. Roughly a quarter of a million people in the Gothenburg region depend on these two companies for their livelihood, either directly or indirectly.
“A wide spectrum of businesses depend on our presence in the city, from the smallest hot dog stand to a large part of the service sector,” says Paul Welander, Senior Vice President at Volvo Cars.
In light of this, he finds it disturbing when some people glibly suggest that the automotive industry will disappear within a decade.
“What does the automotive industry contribute to society? We create opportunities for everybody to get around and have more freedom. Moreover, our vehicles are constantly being developed to become more sustainable and more integrated with other transport solutions,” he says.
He adds that in future, the automotive industry needs to get more involved in Gothenburg’s development as a city.
“As a company, we want to have a higher purpose and give back to society. We’re not just here to earn money; we want to improve safety. We have a vision that nobody will be seriously injured in a Volvo vehicle in 2020. When we invented the three-point seat belt, we made the design free for other automotive manufacturers to use. The same philosophy applies to many of our safety solutions.”
Volvo Cars made headlines by declaring that 50% of its sold cars would be all-electric by 2025, and it’s important to meet this target.
“It’s hard to predict how self-driving and connected vehicles will impact on people’s time, but we hope to be able to give back a week of quality time per year by 2025. This is equivalent to the time drivers typically spend in tailbacks today.
“We all depend on smooth-running infrastructure and mobility, and efficient transport is necessary to attract more outside investment. This is especially true in a city with canals and trams like Gothenburg. We must think bigger in terms of social economy.”
Paul’s background is in polymer engineering, but he has worked most of his career in the automotive industry.
“I love the core of this culture, that people are our central focus and that we offer products that are relevant to everyone.”
He remembers one Friday night when he and his wife had parked outside a restaurant in a newly launched Volvo XC60. A man came up and spoke to them.
“He asked if I liked the car. I said that I certainly did. ‘So do I, because I built it,’ said the guy, smiling proudly.”
Paul doesn’t think this kind of pride could have been created anywhere else.
“If Volvo Cars had been headquartered in Stockholm, we’d have been a different company. Our history, with the textile industry that created SKF, which in turn created Volvo, could only happen here. And with the city’s harbour and shipyards, Volvo and Gothenburg are constantly strengthening each other.”
Paul gives us a tour of the Volvo Museum. It’s an exciting journey through Sweden’s industrial history and social development with a large dose of nostalgia. Plans are underway to make this history more accessible to everyone visiting Gothenburg. Discussions are in progress about creating an activity and experience centre next to Liseberg, Sweden’s largest amusement park, which is currently investing in a big new family hotel and water park.
Liseberg’s CEO Andreas Andersen is very positive to these plans.
“The synergy is clear for all three players: Gothenburg, Volvo and Liseberg. From a national perspective, Liseberg is a leading brand – one of Sweden’s top five – but internationally, Volvo has a stronger brand than either Liseberg or Gothenburg. When I’m abroad I sometimes get asked if I’m from Volvo city,” he says.
Copyright: Ulrica Segersten (text), Samuel Unéus (photo)
This article is an excerpt from “Magasin Göteborg”. To read the entire Magazine (in Swedish) click here.