Volvo was originally formed in 1926, as 100 percent-owned subsidiary of the Svenska Kullagerfabriken AB, which translates to the “Swedish Ball Bearing Factory”, or SKF. When it was split off and went public in 1935 on the Swedish stock exchange as Volvo AB, SKF sold the majority of its shares in the company.
One of the things Volvo has always been particularly noted for is safety. From the very beginning the company’s founders were concerned with it. To that end, new Volvo cars were the first to use laminated glass, three-point safety belts, rear-facing child safety seats, crumple zones front and rear, safety door locks, inertial reel safety belts, impact absorbing steering columns, a roll-over protection system, roll stability control, inflatable side-curtain airbags, collision warning, lane departure warning, pedestrian protection with auto brake, and cross traffic alerts.
And, these are but a few among many, many such innovations.
The first new Volvo models came to the United States in the 1950s. Leading the way was the iconic Volvo PV444. This was one of the first truly successful new Volvo cars. In the 1960’s Volvo launched a sports car, the P1800. Available as both a coupe and a compact station wagon, the Volvo P1800 was featured on a network television series driven by Roger Moore playing the character, “The Saint”.
In the 1980’s, young urban professionals started heavily favoring new Volvo models. The Volvo 242 GT sports coupe from that period presaged the performance image Volvo would later cultivate with its new “R” Series and “R-Design” cars.
Leading into the 21st century, a design renaissance took root at the company. The first new Volvo models to benefit from this were the S40 and C70. Suddenly, in addition to being safe, new Volvo cars were sexy too. This period also saw Volvo move more upmarket with the introduction of the Volvo 850, the forerunner to today’s Volvo S80 full-size luxury automobiles.
Today’s new Volvo models are just as much about luxury and performance as they are about safety. Unfortunately though, it seems to have been difficult to build and sell them profitably since the 1990s.
Volvo AB operated as an independent entity until 1999, when the Ford Motor Company bought Volvo for its now-defunct Premier Automotive Group (PAG). Upon the dissolution of the PAG in 2010, Ford sold Volvo to the Geely Holding Group of China—the current owners of the company.