Gunnar Hedborg, vice governor of the county, says manufacturers have been drawn to Norrbotten to be close to major brake manufacturers that have testing centers there, particularly the two largest: Robert Bosch and Continental Teves.
"The brake manufacturers have been in the A community for quite a few years," says Hedborg. "Things have grown around them."
Car manufacturers are secretive about exactly where they do their testing, but those with some kind of Norrbotten presence include VW, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Lancia, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Ford, General Motors and Renault.
Brake testing began in the mid-1960s when companies like Teldix, Teves, Bosch and Bendix began developing antilock brakes. Since those early days, technologies have emerged to complement ABS. They also require testing on slippery roads.
"We are working with normal brakes, rear brakes, electronic stability control and traction control," says Michael Zehbe, manager of the test drive program at Continental Teves. "That's what we are developing up there. Those systems need slippery roads." Brake testing started development, says Hans Folkesson, Volvo's senior vice president of r&d.
"But it is also very important to test the driveability on engines and the ability to start, heating and ventilation functions, defrosting, how the locks on the car are working."
It usually takes two winters to complete testing of a component or system, the first for testing of a system and the second for verification, Folkesson says. Every year toward the end of the season, the car companies bring top management to the north for test drives to showcase how well systems work.
Volkswagen's Ferdinand Piech was a frequent visitor, often coming two or three times a year and bringing VW's product development team.
Weekly German charter flights land at Arvidsjaur airport from Frankfurt and Hannover, Germany, every Monday and leave on Friday.