Hard to believe we are 85 years old…I mean Volvo. Of course my Mom was born in ’27 and that was good, but that was also Volvo’s founding date. The idea of a Volvo was imagined in 1924; and the first car rolled out on April 14, 1927, by our founders while sharing crayfish at the swanky Sturehof restaurant in Stockholm (http://www.sturehof.com/sv-se/start/). I can imagine a wonderful Midsummer day in Stockholm: flowers blooming, everyone dressed to the nines and winter gone for a few more months. Probably winters were much colder back then and certainly there wasn’t as much home insulation as we have today, probably lots of wood burning stoves. And then there were two guys eating crayfish at a swanky restaurant in Gothenburg. Maybe it was the Aquavit, probably not, but it would make a great story, that helped them decide to build cars in Sweden.
The idea they had was to build a car with soul, to make a car that helped people – with a focus on safety. Back then “safety” was not about crumple zones, steering wheels that fold, lane detection or cars that stop themselves. Safety was to have a car heater fitted as standard equipment. Hey, remember Sweden is cold probably a good eight months a year and a car with heat would be important. In later years we became known for making a durable car, which Volvo’s are, but in many buyer’s minds it would mean – Durability = a Safe car.
Think back 25 years ago, cars were expected to last 60,000 MAYBE 80,000 miles. Engine oils were paraffin based which just made matters worse. My father believed cars were designed to fall apart, “planned obsolescence.” When was the last time you heard that? For Volvo, safety has always been about people. It’s not the annual theme de jour, it’s authentic to our soul.
Volvo is a company founded 85 years ago on the idea that what we do must be about people. Not only how to help protect them, but how to help them enjoy life through a Scandinavian driving experience. I think there are only a few car companies that can trace what they do today to what was promised when they were founded – we can.
When the founders designed a symbol for Volvo, it was the shield and spear for the Greek God Mars. Mars is a symbol of war and strength. Looking back on hood emblems of that era, only a few are still around today. I just did a Google search (1927 hood emblem, subgroup: images) and there are some very beautiful emblems from those years but not many of those cars have stood as long as Volvo. Sweden was known for their steel, a special, very hard, naturally occurring iron ore, mined in Sweden. Hard steel was what brought the first U.S. dealers to Sweden. As merchants, they appreciated Sweden’s good steel nails, saws, hammers, etc. Mars as a symbol of iron and strength was and continues to be very appropriate for Volvo.
Today Volvo manufactures buses, truck, construction equipment, jet engines and marine engines, just to mention a few. As a brand, AB Volvo and Volvo Cars are bound together by Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson’s vision of helping people with their transportation needs in a safe and dependable way.
Happy Birthday Volvo!