Volvo salutes Swedish misery in new advert

Volvo pulls out every stop to emphasise its Swedishness in a deliberately melancholic new advert it describes as "a thank you to the cold, darkness, wind and rain".

Volvo salutes Swedish misery in new advert
Jason Diakité ponders his solitude on Malmö's Ribersborgs beach. Source: Screen grab from Volvo ad
The film — which features hockey legend Börje Salming, rapper Timbuktu and high jumper Emma Green in various mournful poses — stretches to more than four minutes of artistically shot Scandi scenes, all set to an echoey, Nordic soundtrack sung by Amanda Bergman.  
Salming, the first Swedish hockey player to go international and play in the US, is shown putting a log into a wood burner, his deeply lined face lit only by the firelight.  Timbuktu (real name Jason Diakité) trudges in the early morning along Malmö’s Ribersborgs beach, an overcoat and Persian lambskin hat shielding him from the drizzle. 
"This is a tribute to Sweden at its toughest," reads the advertising copy.  "A thank you to the cold, darkness, wind and rain. Because without our harsh Swedish conditions we would never have made the cars we do." 

The scenes are intercut with shots of Bergmanesque Swedishness — the corn rustling in the wind, aerial shots of remote snow-clad Lapland wilderness, the West coast fishing fleet skimming over the grey waters — much of it shot in near darkness. 
Eva Ossiansson, a branding expert at the University of Gothenburg told Göteborgs-Posten that she found the film "incredibly beautiful, sensual and very Swedish."
“They have dared to break the traditional pattern. The film is like no other car commercial,” she told DN newspaper. “I think that is absolutely right, at a time when we are awash with 3,000 commercial messages a day.” 
Also, with the first exports of made-in-China Volvo cars beginning this year, the company’s Chinese owners Geely clearly feel the need to remind people of where the brand comes from.
The last Made by Sweden advert, featuring the footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic — got more than five million hits on YouTube, while a 2013 advert featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between two Volvo Trucks was seen by some 77m people. 


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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.