Volvo senior safety engineer Thomas Broberg’s its decision to restrict the top speed of all its vehicles to 112 mph.
I first came across this institutional mindset 30 years ago, when I interviewed Pehr Gyllenhammar, author, economist, lawyer, and, at the time, chairman of the board of AB Volvo. “We are not a luxury car producer,” declaimed Gyllenhammar bluntly. The smiles of the Volvo PR flacks became instantly fixed, brittle. The color drained from their faces. The Volvo chairman was happy to elaborate: “We design cars with high specification, but we are not in the luxury class as we define it, that is competing on price levels with the more expensive Mercedes-Benz and BMW models.”
Gyllenhammar didn’t care about the auto industry’s sacred cows. I left the interview trying to imagine GM’s Roger B. Smith suggesting private vehicles be banned from traffic-choked inner-city streets, or BMW’s Eberhard von Kuenheim wondering out loud how governments could continue to allow ordinary, unskilled citizens to control a piece of equipment as complicated as a car.
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