Just out: Book about Electrolux 100 years

In August 2019, it’ll be 100 years since Electrolux was founded by the mythical businessman Axel Wenner-Gren. Since then, the company has grown into globally spanning group, and a leader in its field. A new book, “Shape living for the better: The first 100 years of Electrolux” (Business History Publishing, 2018) tells that story.

The book, with 400 pages and over 300 images, was written by the business writer and journalist Ronald Fagerfjäll. In the book, he shares the story of how the company started and then has developed over 100 years. He also places the company’s journey in a political and national economic context. The book, which Johan M. Sandell has given form to, will be available in book stores by late January 2019.

Here the book’s editor, Karin Jansson-Myhr at the Centre for Business History, summarizes a century of Electrolux.

How it all began

The story begins in Axel Wenner-Gren’s ambition to found a company, that he already from day one sought to be international ambitions. He realized early how important the vacuum cleaner, and soon also the fridge, would be to households, and not least women worldwide. The company’s products helped simplify housekeeping, giving people more time over for other activities.

Over time, not just the product range grew. During the years when the company was run by Hans Wertén, and his management team with Gösta Bystedt and Anders Scharp, the company grew wildly in other direction. New companies were acquired, unnecessary assets were disposed of, and the growing profit levels enable new acquisitions in the core business. Within the group, new innovative businesses also emerged, for example, what later would be known as the car insurance company Autoliv.

Axel Wenner-Gren, 74, utanför Electroluxfabriken på Lilla Essingen år 1955. Foto: K W Gullers. Källa: Electrolux historiska arkiv hos Centrum för Näringslivshistoria.

Axel Wenner-Gren, at 74, outside the Electrolux factory on Lilla Essingen in 1955. Photo: K W Gullers. Source: Electrolux historical archives at the Centre for Business History.

Electroluxkoncernen gick i täten när vitvaror inte längre var vita utan till exempel avokadogröna eller vinröda. Källa: Electrolux historiska arkiv hos Centrum för Näringslivshistoria.

The Electrolux Group took the lead in allowing "white goods" to have other colors - such as avocado green or cherry red. (Source: Electrolux historical archives at the Centre for Business History in Stockholm.)

Lux ”Modell I” började säljas 1912 och fick en flygande start. Det var den första dammsugaren som hade motor med turbin för effektivare luftström. Den var lättare och billigare än andra dammsugare, men vägde ändå 14 kilo. Källa: Electrolux historiska arkiv hos Centrum för Näringslivshistoria.

The Lux ”Modell I” was launched 1912. It was the first vacuum cleaner with an turbine engine for more a more efficient air stream. It was cheaper and lighter than other vacuum cleaners - but still weighed in at a hefty 14 kilos. (Source: Electrolux historical archives at the Centre for Business History in Stockholm.)

Electrolux smarta ugn CombiSteam Pro med en invändig kamera och appen My Electrolux. Under 2017 såldes sammanlagt runt 6 miljoner uppkopplade apparater i världen. Prognoser tyder på att motsvarande siffra år 2020 kommer att uppgå till 120 miljoner. Förutom att produkten får fler funktioner och blir enklare att använda, innebär uppkopplingen att det blir enklare att hålla kontakten med konsumenten efter köpet. Källa: Electrolux historiska arkiv hos Centrum för Näringslivshistoria.

Electrolux smarta owen CombiSteam Pro with an internal camera and accompanying app My Electrolux. In 2017, about 6 million connected devices were sold world wide. (Source: Electrolux historical
archives at the Centre for Business History in Stockholm.)

”Space to Breathe”, en Electrolux-kampanj i sociala medier om hur luftrenare och dammsugare kan motverka astma hos barn.
Källa: Electrolux historiska arkiv hos Centrum för Näringslivshistoria.

”Space to Breathe”, an Electrolux-campaign in social media about how air cleaners and vacuum cleaners can help against asthma in children. (Source: Electrolux historical
archives at the Centre for Business History in Stockholm.)

Dammsugaren ”Luxomatic” lanserades 1964 och hade omställbart munstycke. Den var också först i en ny generation med populära innovationer som kabelvinda. Electrolux historiska arkiv hos Centrum för Näringslivshistoria.

The vacuum cleaner ”Luxomatic” was launched in 1964, with a flexible mouth piece. (Source: Electrolux historical archives at the Centre for Business History in Stockholm.)

Trojkan samlad 1985: Gösta Bystedt, Anders Scharp och Hans Werthén.Källa: Electrolux historiska arkiv hos Centrum för Näringslivshistoria.

The management trio in 1985: Gösta Bystedt, Anders Scharp and Hans Werthén.(Source: Electrolux historical archives at the Centre for Business History in Stockholm.)

Innovation and design

Product innovation and design were early on important factors for Electrolux’ success. In the early 1960s, a dedicated design department was established under the leadership of Hugo Lindström. Over the years, the company has developed a lot of today’s iconic products, such as the vacuum cleaner “The Loaf”, designed by Laurelle Guild; the bench washing machine “The Round Can”, the rechargeable Ergorapido vacuum cleaner and the Trilobite robot vacuum cleaner. Electrolux also broken ground when it went against tradition in the “white goods” industry in the 1970s, making stoves and refrigerators in wine red and avocado green.

In the early 1990s, environmental issues and consumer needs became increasingly important factors in Electrolux’ product development. In the book, former CEO Leif Johansson acknowledges the impact that Greenpeace has on the organization, when it one day dumped a pile of freon-based refrigerators outside Electrolux headquarters. This event made it easier for those managers already working with environmental issues at Electrolux to get more people in the company to address the issue. Since then, Electrolux has been leading in developing environmentally-friendly products.

Now, in 2018 , it is the the digital transformation that is the company’s largest challenge – and opportunity. However, the vision remains the same as on Axel Wenner-Grens days: to make life a little easier through smart household appliances.

More about the book

The book Shape living for the better: The first 100 years of Electrolux will be published in English in a hard-cover verison. A Swedish version, available in pdf for downloading, will be made available. An English audio-book has also been produced.

The book will be distributed internally at Electrolux, and then made available for purchase in book stores by end of January.

Project Group

The book is published by Business History Publishing. The project team at the Centre for Business History in Stockhlm, owner of the publisher, was:

Editor: Karin Jansson Myhr
Image editor: Martin Månson
Publishing assistant: Mikaela Nordin
Project manager: Jenny Bergman

Project manager at Electrolux: Paul Palmstedt
Designer: Johan M Sandell/Devocy
Cover illustrations: Kajsa Eldsten
Print: Åtta45 Järfälla, Stockholm

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