1950 - Growth and new frontiers
When the time came for Scania-Vabis to expand into new customer segments in the 1950s, the company relied on independent importers and dealers with a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
Scania-Vabis introduced the Regent in 1954. It quickly became the flagship of the truck range and remained so for many years. That year, Scania-Vabis sold 1,800 trucks in Sweden and emerged as a competitor in the same class as Volvo when it came to updating and expanding the fleets of Swedish haulage companies. Considering that Scania-Vabis had no real sales and service organisation worthy of the name before the late 1940s, this success is remarkable.Scania-Vabis wanted brand-loyal dealers throughout Sweden who worked hard to increase sales. Meanwhile, sales were completely insufficient to justify a nation-wide network of dealers representing only Scania-Vabis. Successful dealers justifiably demanded a broader product range and a larger sales volume than Scania-Vabis was able to offer. The solution was to add imported general agency brands to the company's own product range. The first such brand was Willys-Overland, maker of jeeps and other vehicles, and the second was Volkswagen.
Fast growing market shares
Scania-Vabis was appointed Volkswagen's importer for Sweden in 1948. By 1950, when Volkswagen made its Swedish breakthrough, these profitable imports accounted for nearly half of Scania-Vabis' total sales. Agency brands were thus important to the company's finances. But they were even more important to dealers, as becomes clear from a quick look at that year's statistics.
A few years later, Scania-Vabis had about 40 Swedish dealers, with more than 20 additional branches. There were also nearly 300 specially-equipped workshops around Sweden. The entrepreneurial efforts of its dealers enabled Scania-Vabis to successfully break into the haulier market. By the late 1950s, Scania-Vabis' market share in Sweden varied from 40 to 50 percent. In the heaviest truck segment, it even exceeded 70 percent during some periods.
The domestic truck market was therefore growing, but even more important to the expansion of the 1950s was a sharp increase in exports. In 1949, Scania-Vabis exported less than 10 percent of its production. Ten years later, exports accounted for well above 50 percent. Behind the increase were the efforts of independent importers in various countries, who showed a robust entrepreneurial spirit. Notable among these was Scania-Vabis' importer in the Netherlands, Beers.
Beers became Scania-Vabis' importer. At the Utrecht automotive show in spring 1946, among numerous other brands, they displayed a bus chassis, a truck chassis and an industrial engine from Scania-Vabis. In 1947-48, Beers sold nearly 400 Scania-Vabis vehicles, accounting for more than half of the company's total exports.
A model for importers
Beers established training programmes for drivers and mechanics and built up a dealership network. Twice a year, they gave customers a free overhaul of their vehicles, and they covered the whole country in a number of specially-equipped service trucks.
These efforts yielded results. On 12 June 1954, Beers sold its 1,000th Scania-Vabis vehicle and three years later the 2,000th. Scania-Vabis' Dutch market share remained steady at around 20 percent.
This success made Beers - a quality-conscious, service-oriented family business - a model for importers in other countries and for Scania-Vabis' own sales companies outside Sweden.