"It shouldn't be possible for the bumblebee to fly, but it does. This falls into the same category." For Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo CEO and embodiment of the Swedish distaste for boastfulness, this borders on swagger.
Samuelsson was answering a question on the sidelines of the Geneva auto show in March: Why had Volvo succeeded when conventional automotive wisdom rated its chances of survival as slim at best when Ford Motor Co. sold the brand to China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in 2010?
Surely, ran the wisdom, a premium automaker of middling volume couldn't survive without the benefit of luxury pricing or a big partner with scale synergies.
"Maybe what I've learned is that conventional wisdom is not always correct," Samuelsson said. "You can be big or small or whatever. But you can always be better."
Volvo's success can be attributed to smart decisions, a tactfully handled sale by Ford, seductive vehicle design and an advantageous introduction to the world's largest car market, China.
Geely, contrary to early fears, sensibly kept Volvo anchored in its Swedish homeland but also gave it access to Chinese finance, paid for a new Chinese manufacturing base and generally gave it the security it needed to think big.