Cadre de SKF, Assar Gabrielsson rentre en Suède en 1923 après avoir dirigé la succursale française de la firme. C'est à ce moment qu'il jette les plans d'une automobile. La décision de la construire interviendra pendant l'été 1924 quand il rencontrera un ingénieur SKF, Gustaf Larson.
Les débuts de la marque sont modestes et l'essentiel du chiffre d'affaires est assuré par les poids lourds apparus dès 1928. L'entreprise s'avère rapidement bénéficiaire et, en 1931, elle verse pour la première fois des dividendes à ses actionnaires. Bien construites, les Volvo sont des voitures bourgeoises motorisées à partir de 1929 par des six cylindres. Inspirées depuis leur création par le style d'outre-Atlantique, elles vont subir au cours des années trente une influence américaine de plus en plus marquée.
Adopté dès l'origine, le logo de la marque représente le symbole du fer, un cercle traversé d'une flèche diagonale orientée vers le haut. Il sera doublé d'une baguette barrant le radiateur en diagonale. D'abord nécessité technique — elle permet de maintenir le monogramme chromé en place —, elle deviendra ensuite un symbole décoratif.
Quant à elle, la firme suédoise se retrouvera dans le giron de Ford, qui verra grand intérêt à ajouter à son « Premier Automotive Group » une marque dotée d'une excellente image et reconnue aux Etats-Unis. Annoncée le 28 janvier 1998, la transaction sera réalisée l'année suivante au prix de 6,45 milliards de dollars.
Volvo aujourd'hui est la seule marque haut de gamme du groupe Ford qui n'est pas dans le rouge et est même très largement bébéficiaire.
Pour information la division haut de gamme ce composait jusqu'il y à peu de 3 autres marques, à savoir: Jaguar, Land Rover et Aston Martin récement revendu.
On the 14th of April, a large door opens at a factory on the island of Hisingen, Gothenburg. Out rolls the first-ever production Volvo. An open tourer with a four-cylinder engine, its model name is ÖV4. The new tourer is priced at 4,800 kronor, and the later PV4 saloon version will cost 1,000 kronor more. The aim is to build 500 of each model, but Swedish customers prove harder to win round than expected. Only 297 are sold in the first year. The brand's founders, managing director Assar Gabrielsson and technical director Gustaf Larson, are to remain at the helm of the company until the mid-1950s.
The Volvo Special, a lengthened version of the PV4 saloon, is presented. It has a slightly longer bonnet, slimmer front pillars and a rectangular rear window. It is also fitted with bumpers. Bumpers have not yet become standard equipment at this stage.
The company's first truck is launched, the Type 1. Its success is soon evident. Trucks and later buses are to dominate Volvo's output in the early decades. Volvo's first foreign subsidiary is set up, in Finland.
A new six-cylinder model supersedes the four-cylinder cars. The PV651 is longer and wider than the ÖV4, and has a stronger chassis. The company sells a total of 1,383 vehicles in this calendar year. Twenty-seven of these are exported, some to distant markets like Argentina and Palestine.
Parent company SKF comes close to selling Volvo to Nash in the US for financial reasons, but Assar Gabrielsson manages to avert this move. AB Volvo returns its first modest profit.
Two seven-seater taxi models, the TR671 and TR672, are launched. The model prefix TR will be used for all of the early Volvo taxis. Another new arrival is the PV652, a more luxurious version of the PV651.
Volvo buys the Hisingen factory where its cars have been made, from parent company SKF. The automotive operation is now providing employment for a few hundred workers. The first issue of the customer magazine Ratten (The Steering Wheel) is published, the first magazine of its kind in the world.
Two more taxis, the TR673 and TR674, are launched. The world-wide economic depression is having an impact on car sales in Sweden too, but Volvo manages to retain its eight per cent market share. The company pays its first dividend to shareholders and buys a controlling stake in its engine supplier, AB Pentaverken in Skövde.
A manufacturing milestone is passed: in May Volvo delivers its 10,000th vehicle. By now it has made 6,200 trucks and 3,800 cars. The first Volvo bus is made – the LV70B, based on a truck chassis. The Swedish police place their first big order, for 40 PV652s. Many more orders for police cars are to follow, both for export and for Volvo's home market.
Two more new car models see the light of day – the PV653 and its de luxe version, the PV654. Smaller wheels give these a more modern look than their predecessors. Taking a cue from American cars, the chassis is cross-braced for extra strength. The engine bulkhead has soundproofing, and now, for the first time, the instruments are grouped in front of the driver. Another new feature is a glove compartment.
A new series of seven-seater taxis is launched in the spring, the TR675–679 group of models. These are very close to the PV653/654 in overall appearance, but a higher roof allows paying passengers to keep their hats on with dignity.
Volvo sells 2,984 vehicles in this year; very close to the target of 3,000 units. Of these, 775 are exported. AB Volvo buys out SKF's remaining stake in the company.
Highlight of the year is the arrival of the streamlined PV36, nicknamed the Carioca. A luxury model with an integral boot and spacious cabin, it goes on sale at 8,500 kronor. Other new arrivals are the PV658/659 (to replace the PV653/654), and the TR701–704 series taxis. Shares in Volvo are floated on the stock exchange in Stockholm.
The PV51 is launched. This cheaper, more basic derivative of the PV36 can be seen as Volvo's first attempt at producing a popular family model. Its styling is less adventurous than that of the PV36, but it is built along similar lines and uses the same six-cylinder engine. Soon it is selling much faster than the PV36 Carioca.
Launched at the start of the year is the PV52. It has a higher equipment spec. than the PV51, but is otherwise almost identical. Distinguishing it are its twin sun visors, twin windscreen wipers, electric clock, sprung steering wheel, heater and demister, louder horns, folding backrests, reading lamp for the back seat, and armrests on all doors. Volvo produces a total of 1,815 vehicles in this year.
Newcomers this year are the PV53 and PV54 standard models and the de luxe PV55 and PV56. These have a new grille and front end, and a new, larger boot. And from this year, taxi operators – already an important customer group – have two new eight-seater Volvos to choose from: the PV801 and PV802 (with and without internal partition).
Fuel shortages are an immediate problem as soon as war breaks out. The alternative to petrol at the time is a low-grade fuel called producer gas. Having worked on this solution already, Volvo is able to start making producer gas units within a month or two of the start of the war. In the course of the war, the company manufactures tens of thousands of these units, for cars and trucks in roughly equal numbers.
As a result of petrol rationing and shortages of materials, Volvo unit sales fall to 5,900 vehicles this year, down from the 1939 level of 7,306 vehicles. Many Volvos are now being sold with a factory-fitted engine of type ECG, already modified to run on producer gas. Sales of producer gas units and army vehicles (e.g. all-terrain vehicles) help the company make up for lost revenue from car sales.
Volvo delivers its 50,000th vehicle, a truck. AB Volvo acquires the majority shareholding in Svenska Flygmotor AB (later to become Volvo Aero). Volvo is now making very few cars. Some of the few produced go to the armed forces for use as cars for staff officers.
Volvo acquires Köpings Mekaniska Werkstad AB, its supplier of gearboxes, gearwheels and related components since 1927. Work starts on developing two new models for production once the war ends. One is a small, popular model with a unitary body, the other is a larger American-style car.
The company builds a number of prototypes of its 'peacetime cars'. The larger PV60 is intended as the replacement for the PV53–PV56 models. The smaller PV444 will prove much more significant to the company. Following many trials of different engine types, the decision is taken to use a four-cylinder, overhead-valve engine with a displacement of 1.4 litres for the PV444.
The PV444 and PV60 go on show in September at a major exhibition of Volvo products in Stockholm. The ten-day event attracts almost 150,000 people. Orders are taken for the PV444 at the same price as for the very first Volvo in 1927: 4,800 kronor. In the course of two weeks, 2,300 people place orders for a PV444, although it will take until 1947 for deliveries to begin. In terms of engineering, the PV60 is a direct descendant of the pre-war Volvos – a solid, conventional model. The company will later make just over 3,000 PV60s, up to the end of 1950.
A drawn-out strike in engineering industries puts paid to Volvo's plans for rapid commencement of production when the war finally ends. Only two PV444s are built in this year, but they soon set out on a publicity drive throughout much of Sweden, covering 30,000 kilometres in all. Dealer advertising brings crowds of people out onto the streets to see Volvo's little peacetime car for themselves.
The after-effects of the strike are still hampering Volvo's efforts to get full output under way. The company is having to pull out all the stops to get PV444 production moving. Steel shortages are a major problem, so the company turns its attention to US sources. The initial response is slow, however, until head of engineering Karl Lindblom ships the first PV444 prototype across to the States to secure supplies of sheet steel for Volvo.
Output of the PV444 begins in earnest in February. The company has already sold 10,181 of the 12,000 units planned initially. The company loses money on the first 2,300 cars promised to buyers at the 1944 Stockholm exhibition for 4,800 kronor. The 1947 retail price of a PV444 is 8,000 kronor. The company now has 3,000 employees and an annual turnover of 112 million kronor.
Volvo is now producing more cars than ever before. Its total output of almost 3,000 cars in 1948 is made up mostly of PV444s. Only a few hundred are other car models. The company takes the unusual step of suspending new orders altogether, to let supply catch up with demand.
This year Volvo builds more cars than trucks and buses, for the first time since truck production began in 1928.
A special version, the PV444S goes into production. This is finished in dove grey, with a grey and red interior. A black PV444 built in August becomes the company's 100,000th vehicle. The company has exported 20,000 of this total, mostly commercial vehicles. There are now about 6,000 people working for Volvo.
The PV444 B series is launched in September. It is available in both standard and special versions. Other newcomers this autumn are the PV831/832 taxis. These have some styling in common with the PV444, but are much larger. An instant classic nicknamed “The Sow” in the Sweden, many of the 800 series taxis are to remain in service for decades. This is the last year of production for the PV60.
The C series of the PV444 brings few exterior changes but a number of technical improvements. The new must-have accessory this year is an external sun visor of transparent green plastic, widely known as the 'gangster cap'.
AB Volvo's annual turnover is now 310 million kronor.
The 25,000th PV444 is made in January. Working in Gothenburg and Olofström, the company begins developing its first estate model. August sees the arrival of the improved PV444 D series.
Volvo's deputy MD and technical director, Gustaf Larson, retires.
The PV444 is Sweden's bestselling car this year. The Volvo Duett is launched as “two cars in one” – one for work, the other for leisure. The PV444E and PV444ES are released. Many of this year's ES models are finished in metallic cherry red. A luxury version of the PV831, the Disponent, is launched as a car for company executives. Its exclusive exterior paintwork comes in either dark blue or Bordeaux red. Volvo's total output this year is 15,666 vehicles, almost twice the 1952 figure of 8,431.
Volvo unveils the prototype of the Volvo Sport, an American-inspired two-seater with a fibreglass body. Aimed mostly at the export market, it proves not to be a commercial success. When Gunnar Engellau later takes over as managing director, he stops all output of the Volvo Sport, after only 67 of the production version have been built. But it does whet Volvo's appetite for sports cars, as later products will reveal. A special five-year warranty covering accident damage is introduced for the Swedish market.
Volvo ventures tentatively into the north-American market with the PV444. Some say it will be like trying to sell refrigerators to Eskimos, but Volvo soon proves that demand for cars like this does exist in the US. A third variant of the Volvo Duett is launched, the 445PH estate car version. Volvo's Stora Holm proving ground in Gothenburg is opened.
With sales increasing fast, the 100,000th PV444 is made in January. In spring this model is exhibited at the motor show in New York, and by summer a hundred or so American dealers have signed up to sell it. But the big new product of the year is the Volvo Amazon or P120 series. The name Amazon cannot be used beyond Scandinavia, however, because it has already been registered on the continent by the motorcycle manufacturer Kreidler. In most export markets, names such as Volvo 121 or Volvo 122S (for one Sport version) are to be the norm for this series. On retiring as managing director, Assar Gabrielsson is appointed chairman of the board. Formerly the head of Volvo Aero, Gunnar Engellau is appointed managing director of AB Volvo.
The Volvo Amazon goes into production. Anchorages for two-point seat belts in the front seats become standard in all Volvos this year. Production of the Volvo Sport is stopped, and 1957 is also to be the last model year when the PV444 is made. Volvo's total car output comes to over 50,000 units this year. The company now has a workforce of 13,000.
When the Amazon was launched, many thought it would mean the end of the PV models. But not so. In August Volvo presents the PV544, a substantially revised and updated derivative of the PV444. Four versions are made, offering a variety of engines and equipment levels. Seat belt anchorages for the rear seats now become standard. AB Volvo's turnover exceeds one billion kronor for the first time.
Front-seat three-point seat belts are made standard in Volvo Amazons and PV544s bound for Scandinavian markets. This makes Volvo the world's first car-maker to fit this type of belt as standard equipment. Volvo purchases four million square metres of land in Gothenburg (Hisingen) and starts building roads to the site where the Torslanda plant will take shape. New registrations of Volvo cars in Sweden this year come to 39,016 units – the highest total any single brand has achieved by this stage.
Early in the year, the two-seater P1800 sports coupé is presented at the motor show in Brussels. The substantially revised Volvo Duett becomes the Volvo P210. It now has a curved windscreen of the same type as introduced with the first PV544, a four-speed gearbox and a new dashboard. An insurance company called Volvia is set up to offer ongoing cover to Volvo owners after their initial accident damage warranties expire. The company is now making over 80,000 cars a year.
The P1800 sports car goes into production. It has a brand-new twin-carb engine, the B18B. The powerful new B18 engine is to be used in the PV544 and Amazon too. For the PV544 there are also new three and four-speed gearboxes with full synchromesh. A two-door version of the Amazon, the 121, is introduced in October.
A four-door estate model is added to the Amazon line-up. Its rear end is totally new, with an American-style, horizontally-split tailgate. The 100,000th Volvo Amazon is made in February. The C version of the PV544 now has the B18 engine – a welcome boost for a model which has been overshadowed by the Volvo Amazon.
Local assembly and local component incentives lead to Volvo opening its first foreign assembly plant, in Halifax, Canada. Its output will be a few thousand vehicles per annum. The US is now the company's biggest export market by far, and Volvo is the fourth-largest imported brand there. The Volvo Group now has a turnover in excess of two billion kronor and over 20,000 employees.
The new plant at Torslanda is opened officially by HM Gustav Adolf of Sweden on 24 April. It has been built for a capacity of up to 200,000 cars per annum under a two-shift system. Several product improvements are introduced, in line with the company's focus on safety. All the Amazon models are now to have disc brakes at the front, and the Amazon estate gets power brakes for the first time. Another key innovation is enlisting the aid of medical experts in designing the front seats for Volvos. And the first prototype of a rear-facing child seat is tested in Volvos this year. Total production this year is 118,464 vehicles, including 8,040 CKD kits for foreign assembly. The company builds its one millionth car, a Volvo Amazon. Volvo is now the biggest company in Sweden.
Finished in black, the last PV544 rolls off the production line at the Lundby plant on 20 October. At an outdoor ceremony that same day, 26 Volvo employees who have won a white PV544 each in a prize draw are presented with the papers to their new cars – a splendid way of rounding off production of the model which made such a difference to Volvo's future. Total production of the PV444 and 544 ends at 440,000 units, 160,000 of which were exported. The official opening ceremony for the assembly plant in Ghent, Belgium, takes place on 3 November. This means that Volvo now has a production plant inside the Common Market.
The Volvo 144 makes its debut in August, marking a great step forward in the safety sphere. It has disc brakes all round, a collapsible steering column, and its three-point seat belts have a new type of buckle. Its body has energy-absorbing crumple zones front and back, and its braking system has a unique new configuration: the L-split. Two engines are used in the first 144s, of 85 and 115 bhp. The more powerful version is called the 144S. The new Volvo receives widespread acclaim and is soon voted Car of the Year in Sweden.
Volvo presents the world's first rear-facing child seat. Seat belts are introduced for the rear seats. The Volvo 144 is soon a success in export markets too. It proves able to comply with the next set of safety standards in the US even though these had not been published when it was developed. The two-door Volvo 142S is launched in June, and the 145 estate model arrives later in the year. The Amazon now has power brakes, a collapsible steering column, and a new safety steering wheel which will collapse in the event of a collision. An emission control system is introduced for twin-carburettor models exported to the US.
The exclusive six-cylinder Volvo 164 is launched, offering refinements like power steering and automatic transmission. Both the Amazon and the 140 now have the new B20 engine with an emission control system. The 140 series achieves record sales, becoming Sweden's bestselling car of all. Head restraints are introduced for the front seats. A new Volvo assembly plant opens in Malaysia, with a capacity of 2,500 cars per annum.
The last P210 is made in February. Introduced to fill a similar market niche is the Volvo 145 Express, an estate model with an extra-high roof. The Amazon estate is discontinued. Inertia-reel seat belts are introduced for front seats. Planning begins for a new proving ground in Hällered outside Gothenburg, on a six-million-square-metre site. Volvo becomes the owner of Svenska Stålpressnings AB in Olofström, a company which has made bodies and body parts for the brand since 1927.
The Volvo Road Accident Research Team is set up to investigate accidents involving Volvos. The Volvo Amazon is discontinued, after 14 years and 667,323 cars all told. Volvo makes its two-millionth car, a yellow Volvo 144. The company undertakes its first major sponsorship, of the Volvo Open golf tournament.
The Volvo 164E becomes the most powerful standard production model to date. It has electronic fuel injection and delivers 175 bhp. The Volvo 1800 E is phased out, to be replaced by the 1800 ES fastback model. For the 20th year running, sales are up again on the previous year. This year's output is 214,000 cars. Volvo is now the bestselling car brand in Scandinavia. In the UK market, sales are almost 50 per cent higher than in 1970. Pehr G. Gyllenhammar takes over from Gunnar Engellau as the group president. There are now employee representatives on the board of directors.
Wanting to add a smaller model to its range, Volvo buys a 33 per cent stake in the car division of DAF in the Netherlands. The Volvo Experimental Safety Car (VESC) is presented. Virtually a laboratory on wheels, it has been developed to test a whole range of safety systems, such as airbags, ABS brakes and telescopic bumpers. Introduced into production models this year are hazard warning lights, seat belt reminders and child safety locks for rear doors.
The first global oil crisis occurs at a time when Volvo output is running very high. The US overtakes Sweden as Volvo's biggest market. The Hällered proving ground outside Gothenburg is commissioned.
A whole new generation of cars is presented this summer – the Volvo 240 (six variants) and the 260 (two versions). Their distinctive front-end design has clearly been influenced by the Volvo Experimental Safety Car. February brings the opening of a new Volvo car factory in Kalmar, Sweden. The plant's appearance is unconventional, as are its production layout and working methods. Cars being built are transported on special carriers, and staff work on multiple tasks in small teams.
The major new arrivals this year are the exclusive Volvo 265 estate and the Volvo 66. Made in the Netherlands, the Volvo 66 is a further development of the DAF 66. DAF's car division becomes Volvo Car BV this year. The Swedish Automobile Association awards Volvo its gold medal for safety, for features including day-running lights and the stepped-bore master cylinder for braking systems.
The new model from Volvo Car BV, the Volvo 343, marks the company's entry into the compact market segment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US buys a number of Volvo 240s. These will be used to set the safety standards against which all new cars on the American market are to be tested. Volvo presents another world-first in California – the three-way catalytic converter with the lambda sensor. Volvo in Sweden introduces a new type of warranty, providing Volvo buyers with cover against unexpected service and repair costs for the first three years of the car's life. Volvo builds its three-millionth car, a blue Volvo 245.
Volvo celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, releasing a special model of the 240 to mark the occasion. Finished in metallic silver, it has black and gold trim. New this year is the Volvo 262 Coupé, a very exclusive model designed and built by Bertone of Italy. Volvo produces its first environmental concept car, a small two-seater electric vehicle. Two of these are built. A proposed merger between Volvo and Saab-Scania comes to nothing because of a lack of support from Saab-Scania management.
A booster seat for children of up to twelve is introduced. The Volvo Safety Concept Car, VSCC, is unveiled. Volvo's car division becomes a subsidiary company – Volvo Car Corporation. Its first president is Håkan Frisinger. Car sales pass the 10 billion kronor mark for the first time. Cars now account for 54 per cent of Volvo Group turnover. Volvo Group management propose a far-reaching joint venture with Norway, but the idea is dropped when the majority of Volvo shareholders vote against it.
Volvo sells 310,000 cars this year, which means output is almost 25 per cent higher than in 1978. For the first time, the engine range includes a six-cylinder diesel, sourced from Volkswagen. Volvo and Renault enter into an agreement for industrial cooperation, research & development. Renault also acquires a minority stake in Volvo Car Corporation for a time.
Volvo introduces its first turbo model, the Volvo 240 Turbo, which is powered by the 155 bhp B21 ET engine. The Volvo Concept Car goes on show. It is built to test new ideas, in particular environmental and energy solutions – pressing issues even in 1980. Its styling will later be echoed in the Volvo 700 series. Demand for new cars in the western world and Japan falls by some 2.4 million vehicles to just under 30 million this year, but Volvo holds onto its market share. In some key markets like the US, the UK and Italy, it even manages to gain ground.
The one-millionth Volvo bound for the US market comes off the production line in February, a silver 240 estate. Volvo is now the biggest imported brand in the United States. In the course of the year, the Dutch state increases its stake in Volvo Car BV to 70 per cent. Volvo retains the remaining 30 per cent.
Launched this year is the exclusive Volvo 760. Initially there is a choice of two six-cylinder engines – the petrol B28E and the TD24 turbodiesel. The TD24 can take the Volvo 760 GLE from 0 to 100 km/h in 13 seconds, now making this the world's fastest diesel car. By October the plant in Olofström has supplied pressed body components for five million Volvo bodies. Most of these have been car bodies.
A turbo estate model is added to the 240 series. In the course of the year, car production rises by 54,000 units to a new record total of 372,400 cars. The Light Component Project (LCP 2000) attracts considerable international attention. It consists of four experimental cars, made to test a whole range of ideas, in areas including construction methods, materials, styling and economical powertrains.
Time now for the launch of the Volvo 740, in the form of a GLE and a turbo. The 740 GLE has a four-cylinder, 2.3-litre engine with a breakerless ignition system. The 740 Turbo has a 2.3-litre, 182-bhp (DIN) engine, turbocharged and with an intercooler. There is also a six-cylinder, 2.4-litre diesel version. The Arizona Proving Ground is opened. Roger Holtback takes over from Håkan Frisinger as president of Volvo Car Corporation. Frisinger becomes president of the Volvo Group, and Pehr G. Gyllenhammar is made chairman of the board.
The Volvo 780, a luxurious two-door model, becomes the new top-of-the-range Volvo. Launched at the Geneva Motor Show, it has been developed in collaboration with Bertone of Italy. Volvo Car BV in the Netherlands presents the Volvo 480 ES, a four-seater with sporty lines. It is the first Volvo with front-wheel drive. Estate models of the Volvo 740 and 760 are launched this year – a new generation of estates. Volvo can now offer estate versions of all its saloons. Output and retail deliveries are up for the sixth year running, and now approaching 400,000 cars a year. Planning begins for a new production plant in Uddevalla, north of Gothenburg. The plant in Ghent, Belgium, celebrates its twentieth anniversary.
Volvo's output of estate models reaches 117,000 units this year, making it the leading estate car manufacturer in its size class. Volvo launches catalytic converter/lambda sensor options in a number of European markets. The company presents a range of child safety accessories for cars, including a rear-facing seat for children aged up to four. Centre rear seats can now have three-point seat belts too.
ABS brakes become an option for the Volvo 740 and 480. The revised Volvo 760 has new styling and Multilink independent rear suspension. Volvo celebrates its 60th birthday with events like a big car parade through the streets of Gothenburg.
The Volvo 440, a compact model, is launched. It has been developed by Volvo Car BV in the Netherlands. Volvo's first engine employing four-valve technology is presented in the Volvo 740 GLT 16 Valve model. A three-week strike in Sweden causes loss of output. Total production for the year comes to just over 400,000 cars. The new production plant in Uddevalla is formally opened. Work begins on a new paintshop at the Torslanda plant. It will have the lowest paintshop emissions in the world when it opens.
The 400 series gains a new saloon, the Volvo 460. The Experimental Safety Vehicle Conference is held in Gothenburg for the first time. Among other things, Volvo presents a side-impact protection system and an integrated child seat. Nils Bohlin, the man behind the three-point seat belt, is elected to the US Safety and Health Hall of Fame. In the UK, the Prince Michael Road Safety Award is presented to Volvo for the mechanical seat belt tensioner.
Launched now are the Volvo 940 and 960. The four-cylinder Volvo 940 comes in GL, GLT and Turbo versions. The 960 is Volvo's new prestige model. It has a new powertrain: a three-litre, straight-six engine and electronically controlled automatic transmission. Mechanical seat belt tensioners are standard equipment in the front seats, and one option is a driver airbag. Buyers can also opt for an integrated child seat instead of the rear seat armrest. Volvo and Renault sign a cooperation agreement covering cars, trucks and buses. The world's first inertia-reel seat belt for the rear centre seat is introduced. Lennart Jeansson succeeds Roger Holtback as president of Volvo Car Corporation.
The Volvo 850 GLT is presented as “a dynamic car with four world-firsts” – one at the front, one at the back and two in the middle. They are the transverse, five-cylinder engine, the Side Impact Protection System (SIPS), self-adjusting belt reels for the front seats, and the Delta-link rear suspension. Developing the Volvo 850 has been Volvo's biggest-ever industrial project. The Dutch state, Volvo Cars and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation set up a joint venture company, NedCar, to replace Volvo Car BV.
The Side-Impact Protection System is extended to the Volvo 740, 940 and 960. Airbags are introduced for the front passenger seat. The Volvo 850 GLT is launched in the United States. Presented at the Paris Motor Show is the Volvo Environmental Concept Car (ECC). It is a fully-functioning hybrid which uses gas turbine, electric motor and high-speed generator technology. Incorporating a high degree of recyclable materials, it attracts much attention in the car world. Built on an 850 chassis, its exterior styling resembles that of the forthcoming Volvo S80.
Launched in February is the Volvo 850 estate, followed in August by the Volvo 850 Turbo. At the time of its arrival, its 225-bhp engine is the most powerful ever offered in a Volvo. Volvos now have inertia-reel seat belts for all three rear seats. The last Volvo 240, an estate, comes off the production line in May. The company has by now sold over 2.8 million cars from this series. A proposed merger of Volvo and Renault is called off, largely on account of the reservations of shareholders and staff. Pehr G. Gyllenhammar and the board of directors resign as a result of this. Per-Erik Mohlin is appointed acting president of Volvo Car Corporation.
The Volvo 850 T-5R is unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. With its five-cylinder, 250-bhp turbo engine, it is, at the time, the most powerful Volvo ever made. The new paintshop at the Torslanda plant is completed. The Kalmar plant closes. Volvo production in Europe is now centred on the plants in Torslanda, Ghent and Born (in the Netherlands). Per-Erik Mohlin is made president of Volvo Cars. Volvo is a sponsor and official transport provider at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. The brand makes a comeback in motorsport when Rickard Rydell enters the British Touring Car Championship, driving a Volvo 850 estate!
The first Volvos to emerge from the partnership with Mitsubishi are presented: the Volvo S40 saloon and the V40 estate. These front-wheel-drive models are offered with a choice of three engines – two four-cylinder petrol options and a turbodiesel. Side-impact airbags are standard equipment in the Volvo S40/V40, and this year they also become standard in the Volvo 850 and 960. The Volvo 480 is discontinued. Some 80,000 of these have been made in total. Tuve Johannesson is made president of Volvo Car Corporation.
The last of the Volvo 400 series cars is made in November, taking the total for the whole series to almost 700,000 units. The Volvo 850 Bi-Fuel is launched. It can run on either petrol or CNG. Another new arrival is the Volvo 850 AWD, the brand's first all-wheel drive. The Paris Motor Show is chosen for the première of the Volvo C70 coupé. The Volvo S70 and V70 are presented – the successors to the Volvo 850. In the brand's new model-naming system, S stands for saloon or sedan, V is for versatility (estate models), and C stands for coupé or convertible. The Volvo 960 saloon now becomes the S90, and the 960 estate turns into the V90. A very big milestone is passed this year – Volvo makes its ten-millionth car. It is a green Volvo 960 Royal.
The debut year for the C70 convertible and the V70 XC. The C70 convertible is Volvo's first open-topped car since the Volvo Sport in the 1950s. The V70 XC is launched as a sporty car with higher ground clearance and advanced all-wheel drive. The XC concept proves a real success for Volvo Cars, and will reappear in successive vehicle generations.
Unveiled in May is the Volvo S80, the first car based on Volvo's new large-car platform. Its many innovations include front-wheel drive powered by a six-cylinder in-line engine, the Inflatable Curtain system, the Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), an integrated GSM telephone and the use of sophisticated IT technology. It is also the world's first car with an Environmental Product Declaration. The last rear-wheel-drive Volvo ever made, a Volvo 940, comes off the Torslanda production line. The 940, S90 and V90 models are all discontinued in this year. A total of 667,000 of them were made.
New engine options are introduced for the Volvo S80, including diesel and Bi-Fuel (gas or petrol). Another innovation is PremAir®, a catalytic coating on the radiator which turns ground-level ozone into oxygen. The Ghent plant wins several international awards for manufacturing excellence. At 4.06 p.m. on 8 March, the chairman of an extraordinary general meeting of AB Volvo raps his gavel on the table. The shareholders have approved Ford Motor Company's acquisition of Volvo Car Corporation for the sum of 50 billion Swedish kronor. The formal change of ownership takes place on 31 March.
It is a busy year for new-model launches – new versions of the Volvo S40 and V40, the new Volvo V70 and V70 XC, and the brand-new Volvo S60, a sporty saloon. And there are three new concept cars too – the ACC (Adventure Concept Car), the SCC (Safety Concept Car) and the PCC1 (Performance Concept Car 1). The Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Torslanda is opened by HM Carl XVI Gustaf. Its crash laboratory offers outstanding flexibility, allowing two-vehicle crash-tests to be staged at practically any speed and angle required.
ISOFIX, the new industry standard for child car seats, is introduced. The company returns record sales, with retail deliveries of 422,100 cars. Hans-Olov Olsson is appointed president and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation. Mitsubishi becomes the sole owner of NedCar.
Volvo Cars presents its own range of environmentally-sound diesel engines, the D5 range. Their carbon dioxide emissions are 30 per cent lower than those from petrol engines of a similar power output. The upgraded Bi-Fuel engines can now be ordered for either CNG or LPG. The Volvo S60 AWD is launched with a new drive system. Central to this electronically-controlled hydraulic system is the Haldex AWD coupling. The company presents a drivable version of the Safety Concept Car, and also the Adventure Concept Car 1. A number of Ocean Race Special Editions are produced for marketing in conjunction with the 2001/2002 Volvo Ocean Race, which begins in September.
January brings the launch of a totally new Volvo at the motor show in Detroit – the Volvo XC90. The XC90 is an immediate success. No other Volvo has ever won so many awards in such a short time. It soon gains the highest safety ratings from independent testing bodies in both Europe and the United States. The Volvo XC90 is an SUV – a Sports Utility Vehicle. It has been developed with safety uppermost in mind, including the safety of other road users such as those in smaller cars, cyclists and pedestrians. Volvo celebrates its 75th birthday on 14 April. Previewed in the shape of the Performance Concept Car 1, the Volvo S60R and V70 R high-performance models are unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in the autumn. They have a six-speed gearbox and AWD. Their 300 bhp engines deliver a maximum torque of 400 Nm. Also presented in the course of the year are the Adventure Concept Car 2 and the Performance Concept Car 2.
The new-generation compact Volvos are launched – the Volvo S40 and V50. Despite the S40 having the same name as before, these are all-new vehicles. Safety is paramount. They have a totally new, patented front-end design which is divided into a number of distinct crumple zones. The side-impact protection system is the same type as used in the larger Volvos. The front seats have the Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS). The Volvo S40 with the 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine is the first Volvo to achieve fuel consumption of under 5 litres for every 100 kilometres driven. Also presented this year is the Versatility Concept Car, VCC. The company celebrates the 50th birthday of the Volvo estate in this anniversary year of the Volvo Duett.
Volvo presents its Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), a camera-based system which monitors the driver's potential blind spot, a world-first for cars. The company also presents its side airbag concept for convertibles, another world-first. The Volvo XC90 now has another engine option, a totally new compact V8 designed by Volvo and manufactured by Yamaha. Three new concept cars are presented in the course of the year – the Volvo YCC, the 3CC and the Tandem. The Volvo YCC (Your Concept Car) is developed by an all-female project team in Gothenburg, a fact which attracts much attention before it is even built. And there is another sales record: retail deliveries of just under 460,000 cars.
This year brings the launch of the all-new C70 with its three-section retractable hardtop. It has a unique door-mounted Inflatable Curtain as part of its side-impact protection system. The new C70 is built by Pininfarina, which takes over management of the Uddevalla plant. New diesel engines with particulate filters are presented in the S40 and V50 in Bologna in December. The same filters are now introduced for the other Volvo diesels. The Volvo trade mark is 90 years old this year. Retail deliveries for the year end up at just under 444,000 cars. Fredrik Arp is appointed president and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation. The 2005/2006 Volvo Ocean Race fleet sets out from northern Spain on 12 November.
The Volvo C30 arrives. Shown first as a Design Concept in Detroit in January, the production version of the lively, youthful little Volvo with the glass tailgate is launched later in the year in Paris. Unveiled at the motor show in Geneva is the next-generation S80, built on a Volvo-American platform. The V8 is one of its engine options. Volvo Cars begins local production in China, initially with the S40. At the end of the year Volvo presents its new City Safety system, which uses radar to help the driver avoid low-speed collisions.
Source: Volvo Cars Heritage.