Volvo is turning 89 this year and there is not time like the present to go over the company’s many accomplishments. After all, staying fresh and relevant when you’re almost a hundred is not a small feat!
It Starts With an Idea
It all began in 1924, when Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsondecided to design a car after the Ford T had been discontinued, a car made for the Swedish roads. And so it was that the first car, the ÖV4, left the factory in Hisingen, Göteborg on April 14, 1927 and this was chosen as Volvo’s official foundation date.
But it wasn’t the car what turned Volvo from an idea into a profitable company: the next year, 1928, saw the launch offirst series-manufactured trucks, which sold out in only six months. The following decade saw the expansion of the company, with the production of different truck models and the introduction of buses on the market, as well as the acquisition of Penta, an internal combustion engine manufacturer, in 1935.
The World War Breaks Out Again
Despite the War – to which Volvo responded by inventing a producer-gas unit and displaying the TVA, a heavy-duty high-mobility vehicle designed for the military in 1939 – the company continued to grow during the 1940s. Over the next ten years Volvo would introduce new models of cars, trucks and buses, in addition to the new member of the family: the tractor. Launched in 1946, it took only two years for Volvo to become a well-established tractor manufacturer.
The world post-War was rapidly changing, and it reflected on the sales: 1948 was the year in which, for the first time, Volvo produced more passenger cars than any other vehicles. This was due to, among other factors, the launch of PV444 – being sold at only SEK 4,800, it’s reckoned as “the first people’s car” by the company. The Volvo Group also acquired a majority shareholding in SvenskaFlygmotor, now Volvo Aero, and KöpingsMekaniskaVerkstad, an engineering company that supplied gears and gearboxes.
A Safety-Oriented Company
It was during the 1950s that Volvo introduced the three-point seat belt to the world. Based on a model patented by Americans Roger W. Griswold and Hugh DeHaven, the seat belt was developed by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin – who also conducted several studies to prove the efficiency of the mechanism. Being safety one of the main concerns of the company, not only all Volvo cars manufactured since 1959 come equipped with the three-point belt, but the company’s made the patent for the design open and available to all vehicle manufacturers.
Volvo’s devotion to safety would land them two awards in the 1970s: an international recognition for safety through collision and road safety tests and the Don Safety Trophy, in Great Britain. Another award would be earned in the same period, the first of many: Truck of the Year.
A New Issue: The Environment
In 1992 the UN called for a Conference to discuss environmental issues such as pollution, climate change, poisonous waste, etc. The goal here was to promote the search for more environment-friendly resources, and once again Volvo could be found ahead of the game: heavy investments were made by Volvo Buses in order to design vehicles that run on natural gas and the Environmental Concept Car, ECC, with hybrid power, was presented for the world press. Over the next few years the ECB, Environmental Concept Bus, and the ECT, Environmental Concept Truck, were presented to the world.
These last few years have seen Volvo maintaining its position as a top seller manufacturer of vehicles and mechanical parts. Its continuing commitment to the company’s core values – i.e., safety, environmental protection and sustainability, and social responsibility – has awarded Volvo yet more prizes and certifications. Its Concept Cars show Volvo’s passion for technological innovation and displays how acutely tuned to the needs of people this company is.
Congratulations on your 90th anniversary, Volvo. And here’s to another hundred more!