A century of heritage building confidence
5 SEPTEMBER 2017
Scania’s construction heritage dates back more than a century. Back then, 200 trucks were built every year, each catering to the individual customer’s needs. This gave Scania an early focus on the customer and a penchant for rugged, down-to-earth design, both of which became part of the company’s culture.
Few operations are more specialised than construction. For Scania, it’s a matter of knowing the customer and the relevant industrial sector. Catering for each customer’s needs remains ingrained in the company culture today. But at today’s volumes this requires some ingenious thinking at all levels.
A proving ground outside the gates
Most Swedish roads remained unpaved until the mid-1950s. So it’s no surprise that all Scania-Vabis models sold were up to meeting the country’s tough, construction-like operating conditions.
And with 1,600 kilometres from north to south and countless dirt roads criss-crossing the country, Sweden was a heaven for road-maintenance operators. Snow had to be cleared in winter. Many roads became impassably soft when the frost thawed out of the ground in spring. When wet, the roads got muddy and slippery, and when dry, choking clouds of dust penetrated every nook and cranny of the vehicles and travellers.
What’s more, overall vehicle lengths and weights were ‘free’ until the 1960s. The only rule was an axle weight limit of eight tonnes, and that was only slackly enforced; after all, the country was in “full steam ahead” mode, with massive investments in housing and infrastructure.
For two decades, Scania-Vabis was run by Managing Director Gunnar Lindmark and Chief Engineer August Nilsson. Their influence was to be crucial to the company’s operations and subsequent success.
For these leaders, it was important to avoid over-investing. They established close relationships with institutional customers such as the state railways, the postal system, customs, road administration and public transport companies, and with these customers they co-engineered solutions for various transport challenges.
Scania-Vabis reached a turning point in 1925. Despite tight, self-imposed economic constraints, August Nilsson and his team developed a competitive new range of trucks and buses with several innovative features, including state-of-the-art engines that gave Scania-Vabis a distinct, high-performance image.
Scania-Vabis soon created a monopoly on maintenance trucks for road districts throughout Sweden, and the company’s post buses had sufficient power to carry a snowplough at the front to clear the roads for other traffic in rural areas.
Customised solutions became a Scania-Vabis speciality, as did the philosophy of cleverly combining existing components to cater to different customer needs. This philosophy would evolve in the late 1930s into the Scania modular system. Scania’s first modular engines were launched in 1939, and the first fully modular truck range premièred in 1980.
The experience gained in these conditions served Scania-Vabis well when venturing into export markets after the Second World War. The vehicles had an edge on competitors from countries with weight and length restrictions, as well as in the new South American market, where sales started around 1950.
The company’s reputation was a tremendous asset, andanother competitive edge came about in the 1960s through Scania having to conform to Swedish government regulations. These regulations required rigorous cab safety measures and punishing impact tests, all of which resulted in Swedish manufacturers switching to strong, all-steel cabs. In the rest of Europe such regulations were not established until the 1990s.
Power to be relished
Ever since the radical high-output engines of the 1920s, the power and performance of Scania(-Vabis) powertrains have won respect from drivers and operators. The first diesel engine in 1936 was followed by a modular range of four, six and eight-cylinder diesel and petrol engines, which were used during the 1940s and 1950s.
The legendary 10/11-litre engines launched with the L75 in 1958 remained high-performance workhorses until the end of the century. And in 1969, the 350-horsepower, 14-litre V8 took the trucking world by storm and remained a benchmark of power and efficiency until its 16-litre successor was introduced in 2000.
Ever since Euro 1 in 1992, Scania has been at the forefront of meeting emission standards, offering early compliance to customers. Several new technologies, as well as an in-house electronics development that started in the 1980s, made Scania a forerunner in emission abatement. Particularly successful was the early introduction of Euro 6, which proved its worth by combining extremely low emissions with extraordinary fuel efficiency, not least with the new SCR-only technology.
Scania has also pioneered viable alternatives to diesel fuel, offering ethanol and gas propulsion as early as 1990 and biodiesel from the early 2000s. In addition, all Scania diesel engines are now certified for HVO (hydro-treated vegetable oil). Scania recently launched a hybrid powertrain that saves fuel while further promoting sustainability. The development of in-house electronics has been instrumental in all powertrain advances.
Between 1965 and 1975, Scania developed a new range of advanced all-terrain vehicles for a major defence order. Scania made valuable engineering progress in suspension and chassis design, as well as all-wheel-drive, hub reduction and automatic gear changing, experience that has paid off over several decades. In all, 3,400 vehicles were built (4×4 and 6×6).
The new gearbox generation launched in 1991 was designed for the integrated Scania Retarder that followed two years later, and still remains an industry benchmark. From the mid-1990s, Scania Opticruise, the automated gear-changing system, has been successively refined to cope with all operations, including tough construction. The system now copes with gross vehicle weights of between 18 and 200 tonnes.
But simply special may not be special enough for some customers. Requirements outside the millions of choices in the modular system can be handled by Scania’s special engineering workshop, Laxå Special Vehicles, which has been designing and building specials on Scania chassis since the 1970s. With these craftsmen at work, “impossible” tasks will only take a bit longer.
Among the specials produced in large volumes by Laxå are low-entry and crew cabs, in various guises. They can also fit specialised bodywork, build fully equipped heavy-haulage tractor units and carry out various chassis modifications, such as chassis for multi-axle concrete pumps. Many specials have also been developed for the mining industry.
On solid ground
With its latest truck generation and the expansion with the new Scania XT truck range, nothing has been left to chance in responding to customer needs. And customer choices have almost doubled, while the new efficient powertrains further boost these choices with new variants and output steps.
In addition, the Scania organisation is better equipped than ever, with access to optimised vehicle specifications and flexible maintenance plans based on insights from real-time operational data from connected vehicles and remote diagnostics, as well as competitive financing and insurance schemes.
The stage is set for expansion in all market segments and another global Scania success.