TORONTO (April 2, 2007) - Eighty years ago this month, the first Volvo ÖV4, a four-cylinder, open-top car bearing an iron mark logo on its grille, rolled out of a manufacturing facility in Göteborg, Sweden. The car's first trip was a fitting start for a company that adorned its products and facilities with the name "Volvo"; Volvo is a Latin term that translates to "I Roll".
Since Volvo vehicle production began on April 14, 1927, the company has dedicated itself to pursuing the credo issued by its founders, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson: "Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain, safety."
That singular focus has led Volvo to produce many world-firsts in automotive safety. The most recognizable, though, is one that has impacted the entire automotive industry: the three-point seat belt. Invented by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin in 1959, his basic design has become universally adopted, helped to save countless lives and ensures there's a little bit of Volvo in every car on the road toady.
Volvo's holistic approach to safety research ensures the company studies the subject from all angles. Extending the research into child safety led to the world's first rear-facing child seat in 1972. This week at the New York Auto Show, Volvo Car Corporation will unveil another industry first in the all-new XC70. Thanks to an innovative height-adjustable child booster cushion integrated into the rear seat, children of different sizes are simultaneously provided the most effective protection from their seat belt and a view out of the windows.
Beyond seat belts, child seats and booster cushions, Volvo has also introduced seat belt reminders; seat belts for rear seats; child safety locks for rear doors; hazard warning lights; Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS); Side-Impact Protection System (SIPS); Roll Stability Control (RSC); Blind Spot Information System (BLIS); and a Door Mounted Inflatable Curtain (DMIC) for convertibles.
Volvo's safety commitment even extends to a concern for the environment. While protective, preventative and personal security systems help keep drivers and passengers safe, the health of people is dependent on the health of the environment around them. To that end, environmental stewardship has become one of Volvo's top priorities, leading to many innovations that have influenced the automotive industry. For example, in 1976, Volvo introduced a three-way catalytic converter with Lambda sensor that removes up to 90 per cent of noxious exhaust gases.
The judicious selection, and the efficient use, of materials follow the company's environmental concern. With priorities on selecting recyclables and operating production facilities that perennially rank among the most environmentally sensitive operations of its kind in Europe. Most recently, Volvo introduced the first V8 engine to meet the U.S. ULEV II (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) standard.
Through the years, there have been numerous Volvo cars that helped shape the brand and its perception. Volvo began operations in the United States in 1955 with the Volvo PV444. The 1956 New York Auto Show marked the company's first public appearance in what would become its largest market. By the following summer, 100 dealers had signed up to sell Volvos in the United States.
In Canada, the distribution of a small number of Volvo vehicles began in 1957, with a wider-scale operation taking over a year later.
The PV444 was followed by the iconic 1956 Volvo Amazon (or P120), a spacious four-door family sedan. During the 1960s, Volvo consulted with orthopedic practitioners when designing the seats for the Amazon - the premise being that there is a correlation between seating comfort and safety. World wide sales of the P120 exceeded 665,000 and established a reputation that it was a car that would keep going and going, a reference to the longevity of Volvo products that has remained with the brand.
The 1961 Volvo P1800 echoes that refrain by being in the Guinness Book of World Records. Irv Gordon, a retired school teacher from Long Island, N.Y., has driven his 1966 P1800 more than 2.5 million miles (4 million km). Sold at the time at a fraction of the cost of Italian sports cars, the P1800 sports coupe established itself as an international car and the design is often still considered to be the best-looking Volvo ever made.
The 1974 Volvo 240 with its iconic "boxy" look helped solidify the brand's safety leadership. In 1976, the U.S. Department of Transportation purchased 24 Volvo 240 sedans to help it establish future safety standards. During its lifecycle, which spanned 19 years, there were 2.8 million units in the 240 series family.
The Volvo 850, Volvo's biggest industrial project, proved to be an integral piece in the company's history. The front-wheel-drive 850 was presented in 1990 as "a dynamic car with four world-firsts": a five-cylinder engine, transversely mounted (which set the stage for all subsequent Volvo engines); the Side Impact Protection System (SIPS); self-adjusting belt reels for the front seats; and a Delta-link rear suspension.
The 1998 Volvo S80 introduced a new design language for the company, moving away from its boxy past. Along with its safety and environmental attributes, this flagship sedan began to re-shape the perception of Volvo. Design and styling were creeping into the picture, and it was voted "The Most Beautiful Car in the World" by an Italian motoring magazine. Today's newly redesigned S80 continues the tradition of safety, technological innovation, functionality and styling.
Volvo entered the SUV market in 2002 in a big way with the launch of the Volvo XC90. The XC90 was an immediate success, and continues to be the Volvo sales leader. Volvo's "next-generation SUV" quickly gained the highest safety ratings from independent testing bodies in both Europe and the United States. Globally, the XC90 has garnered more than 60 accolades for safety, versatility, engineering and its all-wheel drive capabilities.
Looking to the future, the Volvo vehicle line-up will undergo a transformation with an all-new XC70 this year, followed by a new V70 wagon early next year. An XC60 crossover will also be added to the mix in early 2009. The new V70, XC70 and XC60 will join Volvo's growing list of new or fully redesigned vehicles that includes the C70 hardtop convertible, the S80 luxury sedan and the compact C30.
Volvo Cars of Canada Corp. is part of the Volvo Car Corporation of Göteborg, Sweden. The company provides marketing, sales, parts, service, technology and training support to the 44 Volvo automobile retailers across the country. The company's product range includes the elegant C70 hardtop convertible, the versatile V70 wagon, the S60 sport sedan, the compact and sporty S40 and V50, and an XC-line of vehicles that includes the rugged XC70 and the award-winning XC90 sport utility vehicle. For 2007, the company is introducing two new models: the second-generation S80 luxury flagship sedan and the stylish and sporty C30.
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Marshall Fenn Communications
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