Swedish government plans to close a military base in northern Sweden threaten the viability of winter testing for the automotive industry in the region according to representations made to just-auto by GDP Automotive, a UK-based company that has been responsible for the marketing of the winter testing business in northern Sweden.

According to GDP Automotive the Swedish Military Base K4, located in the town of Arvidsjaur, is a huge employer and contributes massively in taxes to the local economy. The loss of jobs and personnel at the base, many of whom work in the winter testing business, combined with knock-on effects, would threaten the operational capability of the winter testing business in northern Sweden.
Many automotive majors conduct cold climate testing in the so-called ‘A’ community of Arvidsjaur, Arjeplog, and Alvsbyn.

GDP Automotive’s Andre Morrall told just-auto that the military base closure – which would mean the loss of 1,200 jobs – would devastate the local economy of the area and the knock-on effects in terms of the area’s infrastructure would undoubtedly hit winter testing. Shops, restaurants, hotels and local businesses will be faced with closure, he said. Arvidsjaur airport – kept going by winter testers – would certainly close as a result due to lost municipality taxes from the K4 base that subsidise it.
Daimler Chrysler is so concerned about this issue that the company has written to the Swedish government clearly stating that if the closure goes ahead it would mean that it would have to pull out of the region.

Robert Bosch has made significant investments in the region with new state of the art testing facilities and the company is said to be highly concerned that the Swedish government may have known about the K4 closure plans at the time that it committed its investment. Andre Morall told just-auto that the company might take legal advice because the K4 closure question would certainly have affected their investment decision.

“No-one is saying that the Swedes, like other nations, are not entitled to review their military and defence spending, or that the base should be kept open just to serve the winter testing community, but there is an issue here in terms of how this thing is handled. The local economy in this remote part of northern Sweden is being left high and dry and there is also potentially a very big issue for the automotive industry that is only now coming to light at this fairly late stage,” said Morrall.

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A final decision by the Swedish government on the military base is expected in September, with closure possible as early as December of this year.