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IVA’s Great Gold Medal 2023: Håkan Samuelsson - the engineer who saved a national treasure

In ten years civil engineer Håkan Samuelsson managed to reverse the negative trend for the Swedish national treasure Volvo. Under Samuelsson's unifying leadership, reputation and international competitiveness were regained, cultural challenges linked to Chinese ownership were bridged, and production could be kept in Sweden. In addition, Volvo took a prominent position in the most important transition for the automotive industry in 100 years – the transition to electric.

Photo by Ivars Utināns on Unsplash

When Håkan Samuelsson took over the leadership of Volvo Cars in 2010, the company and the brand "the world's safest car" had lost both reputation and competitiveness after a decade in the ownership of American Ford. When the Chinese car manufacturer Geely took over ownership and put Håkan Samuelsson in the driver's seat, a development journey began, which has not been without challenges. In addition to the significant cultural challenges, there was a great fear that important operations would be moved from Sweden.

Under Håkan Samuelsson's leadership during the period 2012-2022, Volvo Cars has regained its position as an internationally competitive and global passenger car company, with a continued base in Sweden and remaining strong values based on its Swedish heritage. The company has also succeeded in taking a prominent position in the passenger car industry's conversion to electric.

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“Now we have entered the biggest technological change in 100 years. All cars will be electric. So I think we are facing a major restructuring and consolidation of the entire industry, where it is important to know what you want and make the change quickly if you want to be part of the new world.” 

Jury citation for IVA’s Great Gold Medal

Civil engineer Håkan Samuelsson is awarded IVA's Great Gold Medal for his unique leadership in the automotive industry in developing Volvo Cars AB. Håkan Samuelsson's contribution means that Sweden has its own car manufacturing which is also an international leader in the development of electric cars, which plays an important role for the Swedish economy.

About Håkan Samuelsson

Håkan Samuelsson was born in 1951 and became a civil engineer at the Royal Institute of Technology in 1977. After graduating, he was employed at Saab-Scania in Södertälje, where he advanced through various management positions. In 1996 he became a member of the company's executive management, technical director and deputy CEO. In 2000 he became CEO of the German vehicle manufacturer MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG, and in 2005 chairman and CEO of MAN AG. During his time at MAN AG, Håkan Samuelsson was responsible for an extensive restructuring of the group. In 2010, he became a member of Volvo Cars' board and two years later stepped up to the position of CEO of the company, where he remained until spring 2022.

Today, Håkan Samuelsson is, among other things, chairman of the board of the electric car company Polestar.

Håkan Samuelsson is a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) since 2017.

(Photo: Simon Åslund)

IVAs Great Gold Medal

For more than a century, IVA has celebrated excellence in technology, economics, business and society by awarding Gold Medals to people who, through their outstanding achievements, have helped to create a better society.

IVA's Great Gold Medal is awarded to the person who has made a particularly outstanding deed within the academy's field of activity.

Learn more on IVAs Gold Medals