In the 1920s, there were few roads in the country – Sweden. Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsson, two engineers, made a decision to team up to convince SKF to equip the country with a national automotive industry. And here our topic today – Volvo. Volvo was originally an SKF subsidiary specializing in ball bearings. Volvo means "I drive" in Latin, quite suited to the automobile.
Quite naturally, Volvo designed robust cars in 1926, conforming to the Scandinavian climate and temperament, reasonable and pragmatic.
1930-1998: from "Jakob" to Renault
From the first model, affectionately called “Jakob” by workers, until the 1960s, Volvo built a reputation for reliability and safety, which attracted, among others, the American market. It then produced under the same banner as many cars as heavy goods vehicles.
It is, in particular, the first to equip a production car, the PV444, with a laminated windshield.
Technological developments and the fierce automobile competition which appeared at that time will force it to innovate again, both in terms of engine and in terms of aesthetics.
From the beginning of the 1970s, close collaboration was born with the French Renault and Peugeot, for the production of a V6 engine made in France.
The industrial agreement signed with Renault in 1979 led to the late birth in 1985 of Volvo's first front-wheel drive, the 480, which also had a Lotus suspension and whose success was considerable.
This partnership supposed to lead to a merger finally failed in the 1990s, partly because of stormy relations between the powerful egos of the leading staff!
Distanced by dynamic European competition, especially on the small models that it lacks, Volvo is experiencing serious financial difficulties at this time.
1999 – 2009: the "beautiful" American
Its salvation will come from the USA where its solid reputation and the safety profile of its range seduces the giant Ford.
Bought in 1999 for the modest sum of 6.45 billion dollars, the Volvo Group will take advantage of this financial windfall and the considerable commercial support of the American firm to restructure with great technical and ergonomic innovations.
It was in 2004 that the Volvo XC60, Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), which is simply called in good French "All Roads", was crowned as the best in the world in its category.
A bet won again with the astonishing commercial success of this model in 2008, at the height of the global economic crisis.
The technical characteristics of the DRIVe range to which it belongs, labeled "Environmental protection and fuel economy", propel the XC60 to the title of the family car of the year 2009, awarded by the European female press. A small revolution for this brand with the logo emblem of power and virility.
Reinforced in a Premium positioning, Volvo becomes very attractive and coveted as far as Asia.
2010: Asian shift
In the midst of a subprime mortgage crisis, Ford shed Volvo's car division by selling it for 1.8 billion dollars to the Chinese giant Geely.
It is in spring 2010 that the Sino-Scandinavian marriage will be concluded.
Mass automotive industrialist founded in 1986 by Mr. Li Shufu, Geely is experienced in international acquisitions.
The Chinese group knows all the interest of using Volvo to develop its offer towards the top of the range and to compete with Premium brands, in particular the German ones, on the Chinese market.
By immediately appointing Volvo Stephen Jacoby, former CEO of Volkswagen USA, to the head of Volvo, Li Shufu takes all the assurances to achieve his goals.
The aim is to successfully integrate Volvo into the Chinese automotive sector, while defending the group's market shares in Europe and the United States.
Who says "China" most often implies "relocations" in our French and even European minds.
It is not so! Volvo is and remains a company incorporated under Swedish law, with its historic and operational headquarters in Gothenburg and factories in Sweden and Belgium.
Far from reducing the sail and to the apparent surprise of the local unions, the new leader has recruited beyond all expectations since the transaction.
Even better and unlike Ford, there would be no Chinese interference in the daily life of the company.
Volvo continues its journey by successfully evolving the lines of its models, as evidenced by the S60 and its V60 station wagon version marketed in 2010, with performance and curves attracting a wider clientele.
Another confirmation of Swedish creativity and a fierce desire to relaunch, the V40 with all the assets necessary to compete with the luxurious German ones, is one of the successes of the 2012 motor shows.
In line with the drivE project, Volvo continues today its race for innovation by creating an electric model using the C30 platform.
First objective: to equip a corporate fleet with this vehicle without any emission of gas.
Currently undergoing testing, the C30 would be fitted with American lithium-ion batteries from the Enerdel brand and would have a Swiss Brusa engine.
There remains, of course, an issue that some raise, the transfer of technology.
The Chinese and Swedish partners are currently working together to create a factory meeting international standards on Chinese soil, with an opening scheduled for 2013.
The project now seems to be held in an iron fist by engineers and unions Swedes installed for over a year on site.
For the time being, Volvo comprises 11 benchmark models, available in S for sedans, V for station wagons and XC for All-Terrain vehicles. Great success has been made in several markets.