Poll: Swedes in favour of Volvo nationalization

The Swedish people want the state to bail out troubled car-maker and national icon Volvo Cars, a new poll shows.

A new survey has shown that 68 percent of Swedes would like to see the state take temporary control over the firm, which is owned by US giant Ford.

60 percent of Swedes are concerned that the company may disappear from Sweden in the coming years, according to Dagens Nyheter.

Support for government action comes from across the political spectrum with 73 percent of left bloc party voters in favour of a bail out and 65 percent of those expressing support for one of the governing Alliance parties.

The survey was commissioned by the Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers (Sveriges Ingenjörer) who have 1,600 members employed at Volvo Cars.

Peter Larsson at the Association supports the survey’s findings and pointed out that the current bust “is no normal crisis,” and the problems faced by Volvo Cars and Saab are far greater than those faced by Ericsson and the IT/telecom sector at the beginning of the decade.

In an interview with Dagens Nyheter he concluded that “one thing is certain, there are no dollars on their way over the Atlantic,” in a reference to the massive problems faced by the “Big Three” US car-makers – Ford, Saab-owner General Motors, and Chrysler.

The Local reported last week that Rolf Wolff, dean of the school of business at Gothenburg University, had called on the government to nationalize Volvo and Saab to safeguard the pool of knowledge within the Swedish auto industry.

“If Volvo Cars disappears as a base for industrial knowledge and skills, then Sweden will never again be a part of the auto industry. All the knowledge and skills would be lost, and with it all future associated development potential would be gone. Forever,” Wolf warned.

The minister of trade and industry Maud Olofsson has so far resisted calls for the government to step in and has expressed doubts over whether the government would be better at designing and selling cars than the car companies themselves.

Truck maker AB Volvo has this week recognized that a collapse of the Swedish car industry would also have damaging effects on its own business and research and development operations. The firm stated that it was prepared to find ways to help Volvo financially although ruled out a full or partial takeover of the firm.


Sweden’s Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings

Swedish truck maker Volvo Group was hit by a sharp drop in earnings due to the coronavirus pandemic, but business rebounded at the end of the year.

Sweden's Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings
Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

In 2020, the group saw “dramatic fluctuations in demand” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, chief executive Martin Lundstedt said in a statement.

For 2021, Volvo raised its sales forecasts in its trucks division – its core business – in Europe, North America and Brazil.

However, it said it also expected “production disturbances and increased costs” due to a “strained” supply chain, noting a global shortage of semiconductors across industries.

The truck making sector is particularly sensitive to the global economic situation and is usually hard hit during crises.

In March, as the pandemic took hold around the world, Volvo suspended operations at most of its sites in 18 countries and halted production at Renault Trucks, which it owns, in Belgium and France.

Operations gradually resumed mid-year, but not enough to compensate for the drop in earnings.

With annual sales down 22 percent to 338 billion kronor (33.4 billion euros, $40 billion), the group posted a 46 percent plunge in net profit to 19.3 billion kronor (1.9 billion euros).

Operating margin fell from 11.5 to 8.1 percent.

However, the group did manage to cut costs by 20 percent.

“We have significantly improved our volume and cost flexibility, which were crucial factors behind our earnings resilience in 2020,” the group said.

Volvo's business regained strength in the second half of the year.

“Customer usage of trucks and machines increased when the Covid-19 restrictions were eased during the summer and this development continued during both the third and fourth quarters,” it said.

“Both the transport activity and the construction business are back at levels on par with the prior year in most markets.”

For the fourth quarter alone, the company reported a 38-percent rise in net profit from a year earlier.