Volvo, Doing What They Do Best

volvo-ov4Before I started this project I didn’t realize that Volvo cars was a completely separate entity from the Volvo Group.  Mind you, it didn’t start out that way.  Volvo was being marketed in 1927 in Gothenburg, Sweden but it was a company about a year before that.  On August 10th, 1926 Volvo was totally owned by and was the daughter company of another Swedish company, SKF (Svenska Kullagerfabriken AB).  SKF was and still is a premiere bearing and seals manufacturing company.  Actually, SKF is currently the largest bearing manufacturer in the world and have been in business for more than 100 years.

Gustav Larson was an automotive engineer by trade and was appointed by SKF to technical manager.  Assar Gabrielsson was a sales manager by trade and was appointed by SKF to managing director.  Together, they successfully got the first Volvo off the assembly line on April 14th, 1927.  That car was a Volvo ÖV 4.  The ÖV 4 means an open carriage 4 cylinders.  In Sweden, they wouldn’t have said it like that though.  They would have called it “Öppen Vagn 4 cylindrar” which means the same thing.  

This just occurred to me as I was writing this… when I was in college my buddy William told me a random little story about the Volvo ÖV 4.  He said that an engineer was about to drive the first series out of the factory.  The engineer put the car into first gear and the car went backwards.  What he thought was first gear turned out to actually be reverse.  It was said that the differential gear in the rear wasn’t properly made.  This little hiccup delayed the official introduction by only one day.  

I thought for sure that William was going to have a career in the automotive field.  I could always count on him to shower me with a bunch of random facts about cars and the industry. But to my surprise he is a tree cutter now.  He is doing quite well for himself and that I’m not surprised at.  William soaked up information like a sponge and remembered details about people, places, and things like you wouldn’t believe.  Anyway, I digress…

The company only made about 280 of the Volvo ÖV 4.  After the first Volvo was introduced in 1927, the company tried its hand at building trucks.  In 1928, the company debuted its first truck with much success and also attracted interest from other places outside of the country. The trucks seemed to get more attention than the cars.  In 1930 the export of trucks to Europe started.  The cars on the other hand didn’t gain notoriety outside of Sweden until volvo-busafter the second world war.  The 1930s is when Volvo automobiles got its spike and they started getting into other vehicles like buses, marine engines, and aircraft engines.  So its easy to say that Volvo popularity and success didn’t really come from its cars but from the high quality buses and trucks that it produced.

Maybe this is how my uncle found out about Volvo so far in advance.  He was a high ranked officer in the navy so I’m sure that a lot of the marine equipment at that time was made by Volvo.  Like I stated on another page, I didn’t see a Volvo for years after my uncle had his two.

Volvo eventually sold the “car” portion of its company and focused more on trucks, buses, engines, etc.  They sold to Ford in 1999 for billions of dollars.  Many of the engineering components from Volvo were used in Ford’s high end cars at the time.  The high end cars consisted of Land Rovers, Aston Martins, and Jaguars.

Ford ended up selling Volvo to Geely Automobile which is the daughter company to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd.  It is a Chinese multinational automotive manufactoring company.  Its main products are taxis, transmissions, engines, motorcycles, and automobiles. Volvo cars is still based in Sweden but it is just owned by the China based Geely Automobile company.  

The Volvo group has other businesses under its umbrella but they have sold off some as well. Three to be exact.  One is the above mentioned, Volvo Cars.  Another is Volvo Aero.  It was a Swedish aircraft and rocket engine manufacturer.  In 2012 GKN purchased Volvo Aero making it GKN Aerospace Engine Systems.  GKN is a British multinational automotive and aerospace components company.  So it seems like a good fit.  

The third company that was sold was Volvo Rents and in 2014 it was sold to Platinum Equity. Volvo Rents had more than 185 locations in North America.  They rent construction equipment to contractors and non contractors.  Since the purchase in 2014, Volvo Rents name has been changed to BlueLine rental.  They still are an equipment rental company but under a different name.  

The Volvo Group made necessary moves so that it can hone in on what it does best, trucks and buses.  Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me from this page if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about what I have posted here.