The Sustainability of People

One of the most memorable trips during our adventure in Sweden has to be when Scott and I were inducted into the brand behind the Volvo Car Group. From learning the history behind the brand to the reasons the company is legendary in making cars leading in safety standards, we were able to tour the immense assembly lines, watching 2014 models be rolled off of the presses, and even drive the entire Volvo lineup at the factory test track.

What have we learned of the now Chinese owned company? For one, “it's time to unleash the tiger” that is Volvo. No we did not come up with that ourselves, but it is a mantra the new owners are taking. And that Tiger is on a mission to keep us alive.

We all know Volvo is related to safety, but how does that result in sales worldwide? The answer to the emphasis is two-sided. While it used to be that safety features alone drove the sales of Volvo, the company has a declining market share in its home country of Sweden (from 33% to currently 20%). The reason why this is so, Volvo executives believe, is that the company has for years been stuck in an awkward and difficult market segment, between inexpensive, ‘mass-market' vehicles and high-end, premium autos.

The global recession of 2008 exacerbated the problem. Economically squeezed and price-conscious, many consumers were no longer looking for just safety in their automotive purchase, but what they could afford. Volvo had to make a choice on its direction.

The direction, it turns out, was up. By focusing on building premium cars Volvo is now marketing primarily to less price-sensitive customers. The company's historic emphasis on quality safety features is not diminishing, but continually becoming stronger. This strategy has paid off with Volvo now growing in certain markets and their safety record increasing tremendously.

Today only 2% of accidents in a Volvo result in a serious injury or death, but that's not enough. Volvo believes that it is it's moral obligation to get that number down to zero by 2020. Zero, you might say, is ambitious. Some might even call it foolhardy and impossible. But after halving their casualty/fatality rate twice over the past decade, the company sees it as not only possible, but a moral obligation.

To do so will require numerous innovations, from accident prevention to how the occupant(s) do in fact survive a crash. Volvo is on it's way, from placing cameras and infrared sensors on it's vehicles to automatic braking technologies and incorporating the strongest metals on the planet into their rides. The key to reaching the mystical number of zero will be to prepare the car to take a hit or even stop the car before an accident happens. You might think of it as an emphasis on the sustainability of actual people.

Because actual people are the folks driving Volvos. Not test dummies, not robots. This company is one built on the idea of keeping us safe, above all else. So the next time you go from 0-60 on the freeway, or much worse, 60-0 on a dark, rainy night, you might be able to walk away without a scratch… if you happen to be in a Volvo.