Secrets to success

By: Steve Skinner

Sweden punches well above its weight as a manufacturer, and not just of buses and trucks

Secrets to success
Senior Volvo executive Claes Nilsson, minus a tie: he says the Group has an informal culture

How does a country at the top of the world, with less than half the population of Australia, manage to produce one of the biggest builders of heavy commercial vehicles on the planet?

Sweden’s achievement with Volvo is all the more remarkable when you add that other great global brand of heavy vehicle, Scania, now majority owned by Volkswagen.

ABC recently travelled to Sweden courtesy of Volvo Group and interviewed Claes Nilsson, global president of Volvo Trucks, at the company’s Gothenburg bus and truck training centre.

I asked Nilsson to put brand rivalry aside in explaining the big Swedes’ secrets to success, achieved without government subsidies or protection.

He reckons there are many factors but three main ones.

"First of all we are a small country of just 10 million people," Nilsson says. "We have to be export-oriented from the start, because the domestic market is so small compared with the Germans, or the French, or the Americans or whatever, who have a big domestic market, which we don’t have the luxury of.

"Secondly … the healthy competition between the two of us (Volvo and Scania) I think has been very good for both companies.

"The respectful internal domestic rivalry between the two of us has really forced us to be on our toes all the time and try to beat the other one."

Thirdly, in being neutral during World War II, Sweden didn’t have its industry destroyed.

"So when the market came back up Sweden was very fortunate to have the machinery up and running immediately, and we and other companies definitely benefited from this," Nilsson says.

He includes there several other high-tech Swedish companies: Sandvik (tools and engineering); Atlas Copco (industrial tools and equipment); and SKF (bearings, seals, lubrication systems and more).

Check out the full feature in the July issue of ABC

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