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1927-2007. 80 years with Volvo cars
31 March 2007
Volvo cars have been driving on roads around the world for 80 years. The company's history and its beginnings have been documented in innumerable ways over the years. By picking out the seventh year in every decade, we can condense the main points in the company's history with the following ten-step summary.
On 14 April, a factory gate opens on the island of Hisingen in Göteborg and out rolls the very first series-produced Volvo car. Its model name is ÖV4, the Swedish abbreviation for Open Car, 4 cylinders. Its price is set at 4800 kronor and the covered version which is launched soon after under the PV4 model name costs an additional 1000 kronor. The aim is to build 500 cars in each series, but the public turns out to be particularly difficult to win over and just 297 cars are sold that first year. At the helm of the young company - and staying with their hands on the tiller all the way to the mid-fifties - are the company's two founders Assar Gabrielsson, President, and Gustaf Larson, director of engineering.
During the previous year, a rather simple model which can be seen as Volvo's first attempt at a large-volume seller was launched. Known as the PV51, it is admittedly nothing like as exciting in its lines as the streamlined PV36 Carioca but it nonetheless shares much of the same character and has a similar six-cylinder engine. The PV51 therefore sells in far greater numbers. At the start of 1937 a supplementary model is released, the PV52, which is better equipped than the PV51 but otherwise virtually identical. During the year, 1815 Volvo cars are made. The manufacture of trucks and buses is still the company's mainstay.
After six years of war followed by a long strike in Sweden's engineering industry and general start-up problems caused not least by a shortage of raw materials, series production of the PV444 finally gets under way in February. This is Volvo's first small car with a monocoque body and overhead valve engine. By now Volvo already has orders for 10,181 cars of the planned production run of 12,000. The first 2300 contracted cars are sold at a loss for 4800 kronor each, the price at which the car was advertised at its premiere showing in 1944. In 1947, the price of a new PV444 is now 8000 kronor. Volvo has grown into a major corporation with 3000 employees and a turnover of 112 million kronor. Production this year totals 2531 cars.
In the autumn of the previous year, the new Volvo Amazon had been unveiled and at the start of 1957, series production gets under way. The new model costs 12,600 kronor ex works. During the year, anchorages for front two-point seat belts are fitted as standard in all Volvo passenger cars. The last Volvo Sport model rolls off the production line - bringing the production run to a grand total of just 67 cars - and 1957 is also the last model year for the PV444. Volvo has by now been active on the North American market for two years and already has more than 100 dealers there. Exports to North America and many other markets are in full swing. 42,192 cars are built this year, by 13,000 employees.
This is the first model year for the new Volvo 144 which was unveiled in August the previous year. With this model, list price 19,300 kronor, safety takes a giant leap forward. The car has disc brakes both front and rear, a collapsible steering column and a new type of fastener for three-point seat belts. The body features energy-absorbing front and rear structures and the brakes have a unique triangular twin-circuit system. Volvo also presents the world's first rearward-facing child seat this year, and seat belts are also introduced in the rear seats of Volvo cars. Later this year, the 145 estate car is also presented. Volvo models with twin carburettors for export to the USA feature an exhaust gas filtration system. Annual production totals 148,742 cars.
Volvo turns 50 and celebrates the event with a special version of the 240 Series, which has replaced the 140 Series. The Volvo 262 Coupe is revealed later in the year, a highly exclusive model designed and built by renowned Italian car designers Carrozzeria Bertone. Volvo displays its first environmentally optimised vehicle, a small two-seat electric car, of which two were built. That the environment is a high-priority area for Volvo can also be seen in the fact that for the past two years now, Volvo cars sold in California have been fitted with a world innovation - a three-way catalytic converter with lambda sond. This is the last year that car operations are a division of AB Volvo. The following year, a decision is taken to create an independent but wholly owned subsidiary, the Volvo Car Corporation. 225,700 Volvo cars are made this year.
Over the past two decades, the proportion of estate cars has grown steadily and Volvo is by now the clearly dominant manufacturer of estate cars in its size class, with an annual volume of about 120,000 cars. Volvo has started fitting engines with catalytic converters and lambda sonds in several European countries. The 760 model, the most exclusive variant in the 700 Series, gets a facelift and technical upgrade that includes a new independent rear suspension system, Multilink. Volvo turns 60 and this is celebrated not least with a car cavalcade through the streets of the company's home-town, Göteborg. These are good times and this year sets a new production record, 423,800 cars.
For the first time in more than 40 years, an open-top Volvo model is revealed, the C70 Convertible. It's the first drop-top Volvo since the Volvo Sport of the 1950s. Another new model is the four-wheel drive V70 XC. Four-wheel drive was introduced in Volvo cars the year before and the V70 XC is launched as a tough and sporty car with higher ground clearance and advanced all-wheel drive. The XC concept turns out to be a real winner for Volvo Cars, seeing ever-larger production volumes in later generations. The rear-wheel drive Volvos - of which there are three models - are now in their last generation, with the concept disappearing entirely from the product range the following year. And within another two years the company will be acquired by Ford Motor Company. 387,400 Volvo cars are built this year.
The jubilee year opens in Detroit at the car show, where the daring new XC60 concept car is unveiled to the world. Bearing in mind some of the previous decades' Volvo models, it's difficult to grasp that this really is a Volvo. The XC60 Concept is a so-called crossover model, a style that is currently much in vogue, displaying unusual lines and plenty of attitude. Other new product releases during 2007 are new versions of the estate car favourites, the V70 and XC70, shown at the Geneva Motor Show.
"Today, we build as many Volvo cars in three hours as we did during the entire year in 1927. We've racked up almost 15 million cars since we started operations that April day all those decades ago. We've brought together enormous banks of know-how, skill and experience within our ranks during the 80 years that have gone by, and every year we take yet another major step forward. Our 2007 models are the most exciting Volvo cars we've ever revealed, and many more are on the way. What they all share is that they all point the way ahead towards a more youthful Volvo. Because the older Volvo gets, the younger and livelier our models become," says Fredrik Arp, President and CEO, Volvo Car Corporation