The production of each Volvo is the result of more than seventy years of commitment to safety. This means that you not only drive the car, you drive a promise. Volvo continuously develops safety. It also improves further and further to limit injuries and to avoid accidents. Volvo is working on a safer world: Volvo for Life!
In 1927, the car brand Volvo arose in Swedish Gothenburg. Since 1999, Ford Motor Company is the owner of the brand. Volvo Car Corporation is part of the Premier Automotive Group of Ford. In 2008, they reached the production milestone of 15,000 produced cars.
The Volvo logo consists of a circle with top right a diagonal arrow facing upwards, the traditional sign for iron. Certain Volvos are indestructible. A 1966 Volvo P1800 was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records for the highest number of kilometres ever driven by a car: more than 4 million.
In 1907 the Svenska Kullager Fabriken (Swedish Ball-bearing Factories), or SKF, was founded. One of the cheap bearings they produced was called Volvo, which in Latin meant: I roll. In 1915, the brand Volvo was officially registered for ball bearings, cars as well as other vehicles. When the company did not succeed to enter the American market with Volvo bearings, the company only existed on paper.
Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson, the founders of the brand Volvo, decided to use the halls of SKF for the production of cars. For this, they borrowed money from parent company SKF. The first Volvo passenger car was the model ÖV4, an American orientated 4-cylinder, a touring car.
A year later, the first truck appeared, a model 1. During the first decennia, the trucks and busses dominated the Volvo production. When in 1931, the ten thousandth vehicle was produced, less than 40% were passenger cars. Only in 1949, Volvo started producing more passenger cars than trucks.
At that time, Volvo supplied approximately three thousand cars per annum, predominantly the model PV444. The model with the round descending back got the nickname “Buckel” or Fastback and was developed during the World War II in neutral Sweden. The car was very popular in post-war Europe, because cars were scarce. The 100,000th PV444 was sold in 1956.
In that same year, Gunnar Engellau succeeded the directors Gabrielsson and Larson. He made various changes. He cut ties with parent company SKF and he instructed to build new car factories in Ghent (Belgium).
Engellau’s successor Pehr G. Gyllenhammar, changed Volvo into a company with a wide scope, whereby industry foreign branches had to finance the transport divisions. Under Engellau and Gyllenhammar Volvo grew enormously, also in the North American market. In 1960, the yearly production raised to 80,000 cars.
Many of them were from the 120-series, better known as the Volvo Amazon (from 1956). The cars were known for their reliability. Although the production already stopped in 1970, today more than 15,000 Amazons are still driving around in Sweden alone. In 1964, Volvo was the biggest company in Sweden when they delivered the one-millionth car.
Volvo is known for its attention to safety. Volvo introduced various safety innovations. Already in 1959, they developed the three-point seat belts for the front seats of the car, which were standard built in the Volvo Amazon and PV544. Today, these belts are global industry standard.
Volvo made a giant leap regarding safety when it introduced the 144 model in 1966. This car, amongst others, had disc brakes all around, a retractable steering column, and an improved safety belt buckle. The body of the Volvo 144, had energy absorbing crumple zone both in the front and the back. The sedan was soon called Swedish Car of the Year.
Also in the export markets the 144 (and its sister, the station wagon 145) flourished. The car had as advantage that it met a new set of safety standards in the United States even before this was published. In 1975, The Swedish Car Association awarded Volvo a gold medal for safety features regarding lights and brakes.
Other examples of safety accessories designed by Volvo are the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), the Whiplash Protection System (Whips), and the Side Impact Protection System (Sips). In addition, Volvo developed safety accessories specifically focussed on children in the car. A well-known example is the rear facing car seat for children under the age of four.
In order to add a smaller car to the Volvo range, Volvo purchased 1/3 of the shares of DAF’s passenger car division, the Dutch Van Doorne’s Automobiel Fabriek. One of their factories, which was based in Born, was heavily subsidised by Dutch government to avoid major unemployment in the Limburg province after closure of the Dutch state coalmines.
In 1975, the name of DAF-division changed to Volvo Car. Initially the DAF-cars were sold under the Volvo brand. The DAF 66 for instance, rolled from the assembly line as the Volvo66. Volvo also kept the famous automatic “Variomatic Transmission” or the Smart Gear Stick, although it got another name: CVT. In later years, Volvo developed their own cars in the Netherlands, like the 400-series, which replaced the 300-series (still developed by DAF) that were very popular in the Netherlands.
In 1991, Dutch government, Volvo and Mitsubishi formed the joint venture NedCar, the legal successor of Volvo Car. Around the millennium, Mitsubishi became 100% owner of NedCar. Today, Volvo Cars Netherlands (as Dutch importer for Volvo Car Corporation) is a different company. Nowadays, also Volvo Group, which includes truck production, is a separate enterprise.
Volvo Cars Visitor Centre
Now that there is no longer a Volvo factory in the Netherlands, Ghent builds the current models C30, S40, V50, S60, and S80. The Volvos C70, S80, V70, XC70, and XC90 are all produced in Sweden. The Volvo S-class represents the safe 4-door cars. The V-class represents the station wagons. The C-class consists of coupés with high tech interiors. For the adventurous driver Volvo offers the Volvo XC, of which the XC 60 and XC90 are SUVs.
By the way, Volvo offers a wide range of models in Flexi Fuel version. The V 50, S30, S40, and the V70 drive both on petrol and bio ethanol. In addition, there are DRIVe-versions containing features that will make the car more economical and cleaner.
At the Swedish factory in Torslanda (Gothenburg) is a Volvo Cars Visitor Centre. There is plenty to do, like a train ride through the factory and interactive exhibitions about for instance safety. In addition, you can test Volvos in the Volvo Cars Demo Centre; this is a realistic, rural road, for demonstrations, test drives, and events.
On top of this, in the Volvo museum the passenger car producer presents itself together with the truck and aviation divisions. Besides old-timers, one will be able see concept cars as well as getting an explanation of Volvo’s development from the 1920s.