On 8 August, the four millionth car was built at Volvo Cars Ghent. It was a sporty Volvo V50 R-DESIGN, ordered by a customer from Breda in the Netherlands who works for VDL, parent company of Steelweld, one of Volvo Cars Ghent's main suppliers of production installations for the Volvo XC60.
Volvo has been building cars in Belgium since 1965. Initially the Ghent plant was set up to avoid the country's high import taxes on finished cars but over the years Volvo Cars Ghent has, together with Volvo Cars Torslanda, become one of the two main Volvo Cars factories.
The first model assembled in Ghent was the Volvo 120, better known as the Amazon. Other models followed: the Volvo 140 and 240 -series, the Volvo 740 and 940, the Volvo 850, the Volvo S70 and V70, and today the Volvo C30, S40, V50 and S60. In a few weeks Volvo will start assembly of the XC60 in Ghent.
Volvo Cars Gent has more than 4,000 employees. The milestone of one million cars was reached in Ghent as recently as 1988, and it was not until 1997 that the two million mark was passed. In 2004, the third millionth car was built in Ghent and there was a capacity to build 250,000 cars a year. Earlier this year, Volvo Cars built its 15 millionth car.
Production figures of Volvo Cars Ghent (excluding 2008):
*The Volvo V70 is no longer built in Ghent.
Background facts about car production
Volvo Cars' first car, the ÖV4, left the factory gates in the Swedish factory in April 1927. Up to 1964 production was rather modest. It took the company 23 years, from 1927 to 1950, to build its first 100,000 cars. Throughout the 1950s, however, there was considerable growth, resulting in production being boosted from about 10,000 cars a year to more than 80,000.
The upswing of the 1950s laid the foundation for a range of important decisions on expansion. The most important was probably to build an entirely new, fully comprehensive production plant in Torslanda (about 15 kilometres from central Göteborg). The initial decision on construction was taken in autumn 1959 and in November the same year work got under way on the site.
In 1961 the body-building plant was ready and was able to deliver bodies for the Amazon (Volvo P120). In 1962 the paint shop was commissioned. On April 24, 1964, the entire facility was inaugurated, with the assembly plant now also fully operational. In full two-shift operation, there was sufficient capacity to produce about 200,000 cars a year, which was remarkable bearing in mind the annual production volumes of about 130,000 cars.
But that was not enough. The previous year, 1963, Volvo Cars had opened an assembly plant in Halifax, Canada, with capacity for building 5,000 cars a year for North America. And the following year, 1965, saw the inauguration of yet another assembly plant, this time in Ghent, Belgium, with sufficient capacity for about 14,000 cars a year.
The year 1964 was when the modern Volvo Car Corporation was born with the inauguration of the new Torslanda factory. Until then, the company's operations had been relatively modest.
Ever since, the factories in Torslanda and Ghent have developed into the main production plants of the Volvo Car Corporation. The assembly plant in Ghent was extended in 1972 with a body assembly facility and paint shop. The factory's capacity has been gradually expanded over the years and the peak year was 2005, when 258,000 cars were produced there.
When the two sister factories opened in the 1960s, the Volvo Amazon (the P 120 series) was the company's most important model. It was later followed by the Volvo 140/160 and the faithful 240 which entered production in 1974 and continued until May 1993. Other models built in Ghent and Torslanda were the Volvo 740, Volvo 850, Volvo 940 and 960, as well as the first generations of the V70, XC70 and S80. At present, Torslanda's production focuses on the company's larger models (the XC90, XC70, V70 and S80) while the smaller models (the C30, S40, V50, S60 and the latest addition, the Volvo XC60) are all built in Ghent.
Earlier this year, Volvo Cars built its 15 millionth car. It was a Volvo C70 which was produced at the factory (Pininfarina Sverige AB) in Uddevalla, north of Göteborg, and the car was handed over to a pleasantly surprised customer in the USA. The 6 millionth car to leave the Torslanda factory in June this year was a V70 Flexifuel (E85).