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Company celebrates 50th Anniversary in America with Volvo C70 Launch


Early years paved by pioneers and persistence


Irvine, Calif. – When Volvo cars were first offered for sale in the United States 50 years ago this year, they were met with skeptical comments, like “selling refrigerators to Eskimos.”


So, it’s only fitting the company marks its half century here by unveiling what just may be among the most “American” of all Volvos – the all-new 2006 Volvo C70, a classic convertible with modern proportions.


Breaking into the Promised Land

Half a century ago the United States was viewed as “the promised land” for European manufacturers hoping to increase sales. In particular, Volvo executives in Sweden were looking for a way to smooth out the seasonal variations they were experiencing in Europe.


The first Volvo PV444 cars arrived in Los Angeles, and made a grand entrance in Sacramento at the Swedish pavilion at the California State Fair to be – met with curious comments such as “selling refrigerators to Eskimos.”


“We turned those skeptics quickly,” said Anne Bélec, Volvo Cars of North America’s president and chief executive officer. “That’s thanks in large part to those early entrepreneurs who put their financial well-being, hopes and dreams on the line to carve out a place for Volvos in America.”


Pioneers Pave the Way

The first pioneer was Swedish engineer Nils Sefeldt, who in 1955 put his wife, kids and car on a boat to come to America. He settled in Fort Worth, Texas, where he set up operations to sell Volvos in seven states.


He had humble beginnings. In fact, the first Volvo he sold was actually a used one – his own Volvo. But persistence paid off and eventually he sold five, then 10. Then he relocated to Houston and eventually had Volvo operations in 16 states in the south and southeast.


Meantime, during a business trip to Sweden, an American named Leo Hirsch had taken a ride in a Volvo taxi. He was so impressed with the vehicle that he decided to launch a dealership for the brand on the West Coast. He received a contract to sell Volvos in 11 states and over the years succeeded in carving out his own empire.


It was in the West that Volvo first made its mark, bolstered by the attention Volvos gained from entering, and winning, a large number of West Coast sedan races. Within a year, it was the second largest import in California.


Manifest Destiny

And, it also was in 1956 that Volvo began to make inroads in the North and Northeast, receiving major attention after debuting that spring in New York. Volvo made an immediate impact there. And, within two years, it based its corporate headquarters in New Jersey, where parts of the operation are still located to day.


In 1956, it sold 5,047. By the following year, sales doubled to 10,319. Today, Volvo has sold approximately 3.3 million cars in the US, with a nation retailer network of 350 dealerships.


Volvo’s U.S. story is a tale of almost unparalleled success. A small humpback car with an old-fashioned appearance, hailing from a virtually unheard-of country far, far away eventually became a natural part of everyday life – a brand that immediately brings to mind safety, environment and quality of life.


“Volvo is both a well-known and a respected brand on the American market and is the natural choice for all those tens of thousands of Americans who share our values,” Bélec said. “The new models of the past few years have strengthened our brand, and the exciting new models that are waiting on the sidelines will boost our position even more. The first 50 years were a huge success. The next 50 will be even better.”


About Volvo Cars

Volvo has been building cars with Safety in mind worldwide for over 75 years. The 2006 Volvo Cars model line-up includes: the award-winning new S40 and its wagon counterpart the all-new V50; the award-winning XC90; the sporty S60 sedan – including the award-winning performance sedan – S60 R and the performance wagon version – V70 R; the flagship S80 luxury sedan; versatile V70 wagon and rugged XC70 (Cross Country); and, the all-new C70 convertible.


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Daniel Johnston

Product Communications

Volvo Cars of North America, LLC


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