Opinion

‘Volvo’s success in the premium league is deeply impressive’

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson deserves his 2018 World Car Person of the Year title, says Mike Rutherford

Me and my big mouth. A year or three ago at a World Car of the Year (WCOTY) board meeting in New York, I piped up and argued that the best cars on the planet are often (too often?) rewarded, while the top car people rarely win trophies for themselves, their personal offices, studios, garages etc.

Furthermore, I told my fellow WCOTY directors that we can, must and will hand an annual World Car Person of the Year gong to the top man or woman in what can loosely be described as the global automotive business. Think car designer, corporate boss, inventor, vehicle safety guru, tech head, racing driver – you name it. Long story short, the idea got the formal go-ahead, and a list of highly impressive nominees was drawn up for the 2018 World Car Person of the Year award.

World Car of the Year 2018: finalists announced

In the first round I nominated Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer because of the exceptional things he’s doing with his cars, finances, image, sporting activities, and automotive plus non-automotive designs and products. He’s one of the best and most active flag-flyers for UK plc, too. And the icing on the cake is that he’s transforming Wales into a car-producing nation thanks to Aston’s new factory there.

Trouble was, my fellow World Car Person of the Year judges/jurors in Asia, North America and mainland Europe couldn’t quite bring themselves to give the final nod to Palmer, and voted for the ice man – Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson (my second choice).

I know this because I presented HS with his heavy metal WCPOTY trophy at last week’s Geneva show. It would’ve been nice to hand the gong to Dr Palmer, but the mean, green, lean Swede just did enough to edge out the plucky Brit.

It’s Samuelsson’s success in cementing Volvo’s place in the near-impossible-to-impregnate premium league that deeply impresses. That and his ability to reinvigorate Volvo’s public image and maintain the company’s legendary status as a designer and producer of some of the safest vehicles on the planet.

There’s also his “electrification” programme, and the little matter of the ice man being great at earning a shilling for his now-profitable company. And he brilliantly bridges the sometimes awkward gap between Volvo in Sweden and its controlling Geely godfathers and paymasters in China. Not easy, that.

Personally, Samuelsson also impresses me because he doesn’t often wear a tie – a man after my own heart! Verdict: of the scores of millions of people working in and around Planet Car, Hakan Samuelsson occupies the No 1 spot in 2018. Aston Martin’s Dr Andy Palmer merely has to settle for the unofficial title of second best car bloke on the planet – for now, at least. Roll on 2019, I say.

Now read about Land Rover doing ‘the unthinkable’ in the World Car of the Year final

Recommended

Baby electric Volvo SUV likely to be built in China
Volvo XC20 - front (watermarked)
Volvo

Baby electric Volvo SUV likely to be built in China

Volvo's upcoming compact electric SUV edges closer, but is unlikely to be named 'XC20'
23 Jul 2021
New Volvo Concept Recharge previews firm’s all-electric future
Volvo Concept Recharge - front
Volvo

New Volvo Concept Recharge previews firm’s all-electric future

The new Volvo Concept Recharge gives a glimpse at the Swedish brand's design language inside and out
30 Jun 2021
Volvo announces new infotainment and safety plans
Volvo future infotainment 2
Volvo

Volvo announces new infotainment and safety plans

Volvo will adopt a new infotainment system and store data from drivers to promote safety
30 Jun 2021
Volvo targets range of 621 miles for EVs by 2030
Volvo battery tech
Volvo

Volvo targets range of 621 miles for EVs by 2030

Rapid-charging tech in Volvo models will be twice as fast by the middle of the decade, brand claims
30 Jun 2021

Most Popular

New Dacia Duster facelift priced from £13,995
Dacia Duster facelift - front
Dacia Duster

New Dacia Duster facelift priced from £13,995

The Dacia Duster has been updated for 2021 with subtle design tweaks and a new eight-inch infotainment screen
2 Aug 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover
Volkswagen Taigo R-Line - front
Volkswagen Taigo

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover

The new VW Taigo is a sportier, more aggressive looking version of the brand’s T-Cross and is aimed at lifestyle buyers
29 Jul 2021
'Formula E could be on course for victory in its battle with F1'
Formula E opinion
Opinion

'Formula E could be on course for victory in its battle with F1'

Mike Rutherford thinks there can only be one winner out of Formula One and Formula E
1 Aug 2021