We started making cars in 1927 because we believed nobody else was making them strong enough or safe enough for Swedish roads. Along the way we have come up with dozens of innovations, some of which have changed the world. And it’s this commitment that drives us forward to the next great Volvo Cars idea.
From the very first Volvo Cars ÖV4— nicknamed ‘Jakob’—we’ve been using the best quality materials to create cars that are highly regarded not only for their durability, but for their outstanding quality.
Some of our innovations have literally changed the world—ever since Nils Bohlin introduced the three-point safety belt in 1959, an estimated one million lives have been saved. And our ‘Lambda Sond,’ which reduced harmful emissions by 90%, now graces nearly every car in the world.
It’s true that everything we do starts with people, and we are very proud of the great personalities that have made Volvo Cars what it is, from our 1927 founders Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson, through to designer Pelle Petterson, who designed the iconic P1800.
There can be few men on the planet who have saved as many lives as Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin – he introduced three-point seatbelts into the series production PV544. Since then, it’s estimated that over one million lives have been saved as a result of Volvo Cars waiving its patent rights so everybody could benefit.
Remember those early images of astronauts lying on their backs during take-off to even out the forces? Well, that was the basic principle behind our rearward-facing child seats, to spread the load and minimise injury. Then we innovated in 1976 with the child booster seat and again in 1990 with an integrated booster built right into the seat.
The Lambda Sond was yet another contribution to a cleaner environment from Volvo Cars. A little device the size of a finger – actually, it’s an oxygen-sensing probe – meant that we reduced harmful exhaust emissions by 90%. And nearly 40 years on virtually every petrol-engine car in the world has a Lambda Sond fitted.
Another major step forward for safety came with our Side Impact Protection System, or SIPS. This was an integral part of the car’s design and included a very strong structure and energy-absorbing materials on the inside, a cross member in the floor and even reinforced seats. We followed that up in 1994 with another world first, side-impact airbags.
Whiplash is a painful and potentially expensive injury. It’s also quite common, so we focused on reducing low-speed collision injuries. The system consists of a very robust headrest close to the occupant’s head and a clever seat design that gives uniform support in a collision. The result is that the risk of long-term medical problems are half what they were.
The inflatable curtain was yet another leap forward in safety for Volvo Cars. It’s concealed in the headliner and runs from the front to the rear of the cabin – in the event of a side impact, the curtain inflates in just 25 thousandths of a second and can absorb 75% of the energy generated when the head is thrown sideways.
With the growing popularity of SUVs, we reckoned it was time to introduce our next safety innovation – rollover protection. We tackled the problem from two directions. Firstly, we enhanced our SUVs’ stability with a sophisticated electronic Roll Stability Control system and secondly, we improved the car’s safety structure with extremely tough boron steel in the roof.
When drivers change lanes, a moment’s inattention can have catastrophic consequences if the driver hasn’t spotted another car in the blind spot. So we decided that our cars would watch out for trouble, too – our BLIS system uses cameras and radar to watch for vehicles alongside and offset to the rear of the Volvo. When a car enters the blind spot area, a warning lamp comes on near the door mirror, giving the driver ample time to react.
Here are some amazing statistics – 75% of all reported collisions take place at speeds of up to 30km/h and in 50% of rear-enders, the driver behind hasn’t braked at all. We saw an opportunity to make a great difference – our City Safety system uses laser detection to work out whether a collision with the car in front is likely, and if the driver doesn’t brake, the car will do it. And the system works up to 50km/h.
We want our safety innovations to benefit those outside our cars, too. So we have developed a system – using radar and cameras – that warns a driver if somebody steps out in front of the car, and then brakes automatically if the driver fails to. It’s a pretty huge step forwards, too; in the USA 11% of all traffic fatalities are pedestrians, rising to 14% in Europe and a truly astounding 26% in China.
Run-off road is behind half of all traffic fatalities in the United States. Volvo was again the pioneer testing road departure crashes – often the result of fatigue, poor weather conditions or a lack of driver’s attention. We focused on keeping occupants firmly in position, introducing unique ‘energy-absorbing’ functionalities in the seats that can mitigate spine injuries.
Volvo Cars is defining a completely new type of road safety system in a world of connected cars. Our latest connected innovations - Slippery Road Alert and Hazard Light Alert - use the cloud to share critical data between vehicles, alerting the driver about slippery road sections or vehicles that have activated their hazard lights - providing the driver with enough time to slow down.
When enthusiasts discovered what tough cars Volvos are, they started to go rallying, and in 1965, a PV544 won the grueling Safari Rally. Following up that great win, a 122S Amazon took victory in the Acropolis rally in the same year. And in 1994, Volvo Cars shocked the motorsport world by being the first ever manufacturer team to enter an estate racing car with the 850.
Volvo drivers, particularly in North America, are regarded as intellectual, academic, and highly refined individuals and that’s reflected in films, too. In "The Family Stone," a family drama set in New England, virtually the whole (wealthy) family drive Volvos. And in the dramatic, intellectual films "Bee Season" and "Boiler Room," leading characters drive Volvo station wagons. And of course, who can forget the fabulous white P1800 in "The Saint," an iconic British television show.