April 14, 2006

Today In Automotive History

1927 Volvo "Jakob" rolls off the line

The first regular production Volvo, nicknamed "Jakob," left the assembly line in Goteborg, Sweden. Volvo was the result of a collaboration between Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson. Gabrielsson was an economist and a businessman who began his career at SKF Manufacturing in Goteborg. As head of SKF's subsidiary in France, he discovered that, due to the comparative labor costs, it was possible to sell Swedish ball bearings in France more cheaply than American ones. The realization planted the seed that it was also possible to supply cars to continental Europe at a lower cost than American car companies could. Enter Gustaf Larson, engineer and designer. He had been a trainee at White & Poppe in Coventry, England, where he had helped design engines for Morris. The two men met in 1923, and by the next year they already had plans to build cars. Larson gathered a team of engineers, and began work on a car design in his spare time. By July of 1926, the chassis drawings were complete. Meanwhile Gabrielsson had aroused the interest of SKF in his project, and he obtained guarantees and credit form the parent company to build 1,000 vehicles, 500 open and 500 covered. SKF provided the name, AB Volvo. Volvo is Latin for "I Roll." It wasn't until the 1930s that Volvo made a mark on the international automotive world. Volvo purchased its engine supplier, Pentaverken, and began production on a variety of car models, including the PV651 that enjoyed great success in the taxicab market. After weathering the lean years of the early '30s, Volvo released its first "streamlined car" the PV36, or Carioca, a car heavily influenced by American designs, in 1936. Also in line with American marketing strategies was Volvo's decision to release new car models in the autumn, a tradition it began in 1938. Volvo's fortunes would mirror those of the American car companies after the war. Because of Sweden's neutrality during the war its production facilities were left undamaged, allowing Volvo to meet the demand for cars in Sweden and Europe after the war.

Posted by Quality Weenie at April 14, 2006 10:17 AM | TrackBack