The family business that after going through hardship and adversity shines brighter than many other stars on the automotive sky.
Christian von Koenigsegg — From strength to strength
For more than fifteen years I have been familiar with the family business from Ängelholm that celebrated its 25th-anniversary last year. I rsquo;ve lost count of the number of visits, test drives and photoshoots I’ve done at the factory, but they never cease to impress.
Koenigsegg is in good shape!
To build a brand from scratch as successfully as Christian and his family have done is a fantasy for most and a reality for a limited few. Christian definitely realized his dream to build his own hyper sports car that is stronger, faster and more exclusive than anything anyone has ever seen!
- Koenigsegg is in good shape! We have produced about half of the Regeras and in less than a year we will start the production of the Jesko. We also just unveiled two new models: Gemera and Jesko Absolut.
The big release is the Gemera, a four-seater model with the classification "Mega-GT". It is a car designed for four adults with plenty of space as well as entertainment in the form of a large screen in the back. Self-driving features and other amenities will also be available, while simultaneously being fast enough to give any two-seated hyper- or mega car a run for their money. The car has got a warm welcome from customers, dealers and the media after its release and the orders are already stacking up.
The name Gemera combines the Swedish words "ge" and "mera”, give more, which is exactly what the car does. One of the biggest innovations of the Gemera is the engine, designed with the new Freevalve technology. Christian and the company have worked on it for 20 years now and it is finally ready to be released. I remember one of my early visits to the factory when Christian showed me a special room where the Freevalve experiments were carried out. Christian has high hopes that Freevalve is here to stay, since it makes CO2 neutrality a possibility, reduces emissions and can utilize existing infrastructure in the form of refueling stations.
The engine has the cute nickname "Tiny Friendly Giant" because of its strength and its low impact on the environment. 300 units of the Gemera will be produced in brand new 10,000 square meter facilities starting in 2022.
The second model presented is Jesko Absolut. It is not an entirely new model, but it also has not been physically revealed yet. The original Jesko model premiered at last year's car show in Geneva and comes in two versions: a track-oriented version and a high-speed one, the latter being Jesko Absolut. It will be exciting to see what the distribution between the two will be.
Koenigsegg still holds the record for the fastest serially produced and street-approved car model
When asked whether a customer will put the top speed of Jesko Absolut to the test, Christian had no answer to give. But when they broke the world record for serially produced cars in 2017 (447 km/h), a customer did courteously lend his car for the attempt. However, it was the factory's test driver at the time, Niklas Lilja, who performed the feat.
The quest to be the strongest and fastest is a continuously ongoing one. Bugatti tried to put Koenigsegg in its place last year by exceeding the glorious limit of 300 miles per hour. Christian, however, is quick to point out that Koenigsegg still holds the record for the fastest serially produced and street-approved car model. The Bugatti was a specially equipped prototype and the company themselves acknowledged that customer cars will not be as fast. Bugatti has also said that they will not continue the pursuit of breaking speed records, which is probably a wise choice considering how extreme the speeds have become. At this point, they are more hypothetically interesting than functional, and Christian is prepared to agree.
When it comes to the function and technology of sports cars in the future, Christian compares them to horses having transitioned from serving a logistical purpose to a recreational one. Christian predicts that the same will happen with sports cars. When ordinary cars disappear and are replaced by self-driving "pods" shared between people in different forms, the sports cars will remain as a form of entertainment, potentially driven on public roads but more likely exclusively on racetracks.
The automotive industry is facing an unprecedented paradigm shift since its birth about 130 years ago, says Christian. It is becoming increasingly evident that the big actors who have dominated for the last 50 years no longer have their advantages. Their historical strengths - implementation and product quality, are not as important as they used to be. Today, it is crucial to provide the latest solutions in terms of technology, connectivity, and comfort, and these companies find it difficult to change fast enough since innovation is not their key strength.
Many customers are fine with quality coming in second, something that was unthinkable just five years ago. This has given the German actors a bit of a headache. The playing field has changed so much they have no idea where to start. When it comes to new technology and powertrains, Christian believe that electric cars are usually better than the cars they replaced, especially when it comes to shorter distances where lightweight batteries can be used.
For long distances, however, the added weight of the heavier batteries leads to increased friction and reduced driving dynamics. The charging stations are also few and far between. The best solution for long-distance driving is to combine electricity with next-generation carbon-neutral biofuels such as ethanol, methanol and the electromethanol Vulcanol. These alternative fuels can easily replace the gas at the gas stations, so the infrastructure is already available and paid for. The Koenigsegg Gemera will be the first car in the world to offer this combination. As an energy source, the sun is obviously the optimal one considering it generates energy whether we like it or not. Solar energy can be harvested using solar cells, while wind- or wave-power are other examples of ways to generate electricity.
As mentioned earlier, Koenigsegg is a family business, which can obviously be an advantage as well as a disadvantage. Christian says one of the positive aspects is that he cares even more about his baby - the company is like a family member in itself. The downside of that, however, is that it is hard to relax and keep work and family separate. It might also be considered harder to progress in a family company compared to other ones. He does emphasize that he and his wife Halldora, who is the COO, are quick to separate themselves from contexts in order to give freedom to the organization below them.
Eventually, they want to reach a point where the company functions well without them – but where they can still contribute when needed. Successfully building a company like Koenigsegg requires incredible navigation skills and dexterity. Highs and lows are part of any modern business, and for more than 25 years as a company, Koenigsegg has had the ability to cope with blows to the economy, often because not every part of the world has been affected at the same time. The units to be produced within the next few years have already sold, and with small volumes come great chances of further opportunities.
- Through ups and downs, my motto as an entrepreneur is – keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds at the same time. Keep it real while daring to dream and realize, or else everything will be the same.
The keyword for Koeningsegg has been flexibility. It has taken them through all major global crises so far, financial or otherwise. You have to find the common denominator and make the most of it. Also, when things go well, always expect it to get worse. That way you won’t be surprised when it does. But obviously hard times put more pressure on you as an entrepreneur. Christian has noticed that when things get rocky, he often settles in quickly because the first ten years of the company were just that - rocky. Now, he is used to that, almost comfortable with it. Smooth sailing can sometimes be harder because the positive domino effect associated with it can be foreign and hard to deal with if you are used to struggling. It is simply just as important to get it right in good times as in bad times, or else you fall flat when it gets harder again.
When asked if he thinks Koenigsegg will be bigger than Volvo one day, Christian prefers not to answer. The future is obviously very hard to predict, but the goal of Koenigsegg is neither to be the biggest nor bigger than any other actor. The goal is simply to do what they do best. Growth comes as a result of a mission well accomplished, while being cautious enough to grow without putting the company in too much danger.
I would rather see our solutions, concepts, and technologies helping the automotive industry as a whole – that is where I think we can beat Volvo and many others in the industry.
With Gemera, Koenigsegg is also stretching the limits of technology in the sense that the number of manufactured units is increasing compared to previous models, which means that the price will be slightly lower. That said, it is still a very expensive car for the vast majority. However, Christian and his company do have a plethora of ideas for future cars and vehicles, a concluding sentence implying that there are more visits, test runs and photoshoots in store for me in the foreseeable future.
Base price: Approximately 16 million SEK.
Engine: 2-liter three-cylinder twin-turbo 598 hp plus 3 electric motors. Total power 1734 hp. Torque 3500 Nm.
Transmission: Mid-engine, Koenigsegg Direct Drive (KDD), four-wheel drive.
Acceleration: 0-100 1.9 seconds.
Top speed: 400 km/h.
Mileage mixed driving according to the manufacturer: No data.
Weight: 1850 kg.
Koenigsegg at a glance
1994 - The company was founded by a then 22-year-old Christian.
1996 - racing driver Rickard Rydell drives the first version of Koenigsegg (CC) at Anderstorp Raceway.
1997 - Koenigsegg CC is showcased during the Cannes Film Festival, stunning both the audience and the media.
2000 - At the Paris motor show Koenigseggs first showcased the new CC8S.
2003 - A fire breaks out in the factory just two weeks before the car show in Geneva.
2004 - The first visit and test drive by yours truly was the all-new CCR.
2002, 2004 and 2005 - Koenigsegg set a number of Guinness World Records records for the strongest engine and the fastest car.
2006 - Top Gear set their track record with the new model CCX.
2010 - After a failed attempt to acquire Saab Koenigsegg had to act fast, resulting in the new model Agera (act in Swedish).
2014 - A weight reduction of 100 kilos, the One:1, based on Agera R, had a weight to power ratio of 1:1, hence the name.
2015 - With electric drive and the 100% in-house gearbox KGG, the new model Regera made its debut.
2016 - The last Agera rolled out of the factory, racking up a total of 60 units produced between the different versions.
2017 - On a lonely road in Nevada, the factory's test drivers set the record for the world's fastest serially produced and street-approved car model.
2019 - Dedicated to and with the same name as Christian’s father, the new model Jesko is presented at the car show in Geneva.