Volvo's 80 Year History
A fascinating look back at Volvos 80 years of automobile manufacturing history and highlights.
Volvo's 80 Year History
On the 14th of April 1927, the first Volvo motor car rolled out of the factory in
Gothenburg driven by sales manager Hilmer Johansson, an open talk to motor car with
the two liter engine and 28 great horsepower.
The car nicknamed Jakob was understandably no great sale success. It was by no means
easy to start a Swedish car company and break into the northern market with only a
cabriolet in the range. Only 300 cars were sold during the first years the car in
Volvo’s world famous safety image was in fact born before the first car rolled off the
In 1926 when one of the first nine prototypes was being driven between Stockholm and
Gothenburg the Jakob was involved in a head on collision with an American automobile.
The American car was a complete right off whereas the Volvo survived with only a few
scratches — and the safety image was born.
Towards the end of the 20’s and at the beginning of the 30’s, Volvo’s production was
somewhat modest. Inspiration came in the first instance from the USA when skilled
Swedish engineers who had worked in Detroit returned home with new technical skills
and American inspired designs.
Volvo’s first really big success came in 1944 when the PV444 was exhibited at the
Stockholm Motor Show held at the Royal Tennis Hall in Stockholm.
The PV was also the major breakthrough for Volvo on the US market. The car was
smaller than American models but roomier inside and had sufficient horsepower to be
regarded as a family sports saloon.
The PV also quickly established itself as a big favor amongst rally drivers. It frequently
occurred that competitors refuse to start a race if a Volvo was in the field it being
considered a waste of both time and petrol.
In 1953 Volvo presented its first state car. The Duet which was the prelude to Volvo’s
concentration on family motor cars even if this particular model was perhaps best suited
During the 1950’s, it was primarily the Italians who set the tone in the design world.
Volvo’s new chief designer Jan Wilsgaard who was given the task of producing the new
model blended Italian inspiration with Swedish functionality which led to Volvo’s new
huge success, the Amazon or the P120 as it was called abroad.
In 1955, Volvo’s concentrated efforts on exports to America gained real momentum
efforts which resulted in the USA becoming the company’s largest market.
In 1959, Volvo became the first motor manufacturer in the world to fit the three-point
seatbelt as standard in a mass-produced car. The inventor of the car safety belt Nils
Bohlin received many fine awards at the same time as his invention saved millions of
In 1960, Volvo presented its new sports car which became world famous on our TV
screens. When Roger Moore as The Saint chose the P1800 rather than an Aston Martin or
a Jaguar rumbles could be heard in the British motor industry but for Volvo success.
In the middle of the 1960’s, Volvo presented the world’s safest car.
When the Volvo 144 was presented in 1966, it was voted car of the year in the northern
countries. It was also the first time that Volvo developed a saloon and then a state car in
The 240 series which was introduced in 1974 was developed based on this model. The
timeless design has attracted customers all over the world for nearly 30 years.
When production halted in 1993, 2.8 million 240 series cars have been built.
During the 1970’s, Volvo also started building cars in Holland.
In 1976, the Volvo 343 was introduced which in time became a really popular model.
During this period, Volvo also invested major resources in environmental operations.
Volvo was first in the world with the catalytic converter and the lambda sond.
The exhaust emissions from these cars were so low that the American test team didn’t
believe the results but everything was correct and the Volvo 240 was voted the cleanest
car sold in America.
It is still the case that the catalytic converter is one of the most important components in
the process of exhaust cleaning in all modern cars.
In the 80’s, when the majority of motor manufactures in the world concentrated on
around their design form, the Volvo Car Corporation chose to go to its own way. Both the
Volvo 760 and the 740 created a great deal of attention and interest. And once again, it
was time to break new sales records.
A major part of this success was almost certainly due to its superb load capability. For
Volvo, this was a turning point after many difficult years.
At the beginning of the 1990’s the Volvo Car Corporation presented its largest industrial
project ever the, Volvo 850.
The world famous Volvo qualities safety, reliability, function and environmental care
were all packed into a new, dynamic design that slowly but surely would transform the
image of Volvo during the remainder of the 1990’s.
The Volvo 850 received glowing praise when it was presented to the press in 1991. This
model has also won more awards and prizes than any of Volvo’s other cars.
In Italy it was voted the world’s most beautiful state car.
A great deal of the basic architecture from 850 projects including the space saving,
transverse engine lives on in Volvo’s new models.
From having principally sold cars from the safety and quality perspective of the years,
Volvo cars have in recent years also becoming critically exciting both technically and in
their design. The driving experience and characteristics have also been given greater
priority during the development of the more recent models.
Today, Volvo designs their cars completely digitally which enables designers and
engineers to work much more rapidly to a higher level of quality.
Nowadays, it’s not only possible to design a car in a computer, it’s also possible to carry
out crash tests before a single prototype is built. And the developments continue. Both the
cars and the people who drive them will change in the future.
As one way of sounding out the reaction tomorrow’s costumers and at the same time test
new technologies, Volvo has built a number of conceptual cars in recent years.
Here, the innovations of tomorrow can be tested with a view to developing even better,
safer and more environment friendly motor cars.
Developments to satisfy the change in demands of tomorrow’s motorist
Volvo will continue to be a driving force in this development.
Volvo's 80 Year History
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