Trade Barriers block Swedish Export Success

NEWS Published

FREE TRADE The world's best head protection gear for bicyclists is a unique Swedish invention that has a global innovation protection and saves lives. But the gear cannot be sold to consumers in the US. A free trade agreement would increase exports explosively.

carling hövding

Fredrik Carling, CEO at Hövding.

Foto: Peter Kardne

Hövding has about 20 employees with their main office in Malmö, but the company's ambitions reach much further than Sweden or Europe. The product, which has brought Hövding to the attention of international media, is touted as the airbag for cyclists.

It's worn as a collar around the neck, making regular biking helmets unnecessary. If an accident occurs sensors react to the unexpected movement and release a hood-shaped airbag over your head, protecting it from harm. The innovation is unique, making CEO Fredrik Carling feel a sense of responsibility in sharing it with as many as possible. 

”Hövding is such a superior form of protection, and something that no one has thought of before. It feels almost as if we have a responsibility to ensure it is spread around the world so everyone can use it. It shouldn't matter what country you live in, if you want to protect yourself in the best way possible, you should be allowed to. It may sound clichéd, but we are being blocked from doing good,” he argues.

Currently, Hövding is sold in Europe and Japan and the company is continuously expanding to new markets, but expanding to the US market is not in the pipeline. This, despite the product being known in the country, and several large media outlets bringing it into the spotlight.

”There is an enormous interest for our product in the US, over 30% of the visits to our website comes from the States. There is a block in the system that prevents the use of American cards in our webshop, and it hurts to see how many interrupted purchases there are because of it.”

The greatest problem Hövding faces in regard to the American market is that the collar hasn't been safety classified or certified in compliance with American standards. Since there is no equivalent to the collar on the market, there is no product to compare with and measure Hövding against. And American administrative authorities are therefore unable to ensure the product functions as it should. That the collar has been approved and certified by European authorities is not enough.

”The European CE certification is not enough for American authorities, it doesn't work that way. The best thing would be if the US were able to trust European authorities, there is no reason for them to mistrust EU certifications. No one gains from that. It is almost like we are being punished for being innovative.”

In addition to the issue with certifications in the US, there is also an insurance problem that hampers a potential American expansion. 

”We have international insurance that covers Hövding in every country, except the US. That's because they have a different system, a different legal climate, and it is a challenge in and of itself. So the difficulties with the US lie on more levels than just certification and safety classification.”

Despite the difficulties, Hövding won't give up on the American market even if a free trade agreement, and the simplification it would bring, would bring relief.

”The process becomes more expensive, harder, and delayed, but we will eventually introduce Hövding to the American market. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that we can't sell our product in a market where there is such a demand for it. In Europe alone the Hövding collar has been involved in 153 bicycle accidents, protecting their owners perfectly in every case. Imagine what those numbers would look like in the American market,” Mr. Carling concludes. 

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