Volvo - Stepping Beyond Safety Marketing

What's the first thing that comes in your mind when hearing about Volvo? 99 percent of people would answer "safety". And yes, Volvo is indeed famous for the advanced safety its models provide, with XC 60 often referred to as the most advanced model in the whole product lineup belonging to the Swedish company. The Euro NCAP ratings actually support this statement - 5 stars out of five for adult occupant protection and 4 stars for child safety. But Volvo is more than a simple name that managed to influence in its own unique way the automotive industry. And you'll understand it by reading the rest of the article. Logo
Ever wondered where does the Volvo badge come from? Cause it’s not a lion sitting up and pushing a circular stone with his front paw like in the case of Holden or a prancing black horse as for Ferrari…

Compared to these two logos, Volvo’s looks pretty awkward and, even if it’s pretty self-suggestive, only a few people actually know the story behind the badge.

As you can see for yourself in the adjacent photo, the Volvo logo is actually a vertically slatted grille divided by a bar starting and ending from a quarter of the way along the nearest corner. The bar crosses the actual chromed badge, usually painted in black, with “Volvo” written in silver on a dark-blue strip.

However, beside the large Volvo logo, the circle and its arrow are the two elements which symbolize the initial purpose of Volvo vehicles: they represent the iron and were especially selected to express the first intentions of the founders – to build strong vehicles capable of travelling on Sweden’s difficult roads without the disturbance of technical problems.

There have been several variations during Volvo’s history, with some models featuring the simple iron symbol while others, especially the vehicles built between 1944 and 1958 had no badge. Nevertheless, the current badge dates from 1998 and it seems like the Swedish company has no intention to change it in the near future.

Myths versus Reality

As we're sure you know, there are a lot of myths surrounding Volvo and more importantly, some of them are actually supported by the Swedish automaker itself. The official Volvo website is the best example in this matter.

First of all, Volvo says ABS (anti-locking brakes) first appeared in a Volvo. False! While early ABS
systems date in 1929 as they were first designed to be installed on aircrafts, the first modern technology was actually jointly-developed by Bosch and Mercedes-Benz during the '70s. The first passenger car to get the resulting ABS system was the S-Klasse in 1978.

Secondly, the frontal airbag. Once again, Volvo says the airbag first came in a Volvo but history demonstrates that the first mass-produced model to get a front airbag was the 1980 Mercedes S-Klasse. The airbag was only available as an option. Earlier airbag systems appeared during the '70s in the United States, with Ford one of the first companies to test the resulting safety technologies.

But beside these ambiguous facts, Volvo was indeed the first company to roll out a number of safety innovations.

Sine we were talking about airbags, the Swedish automaker is the first carmaker in the world to introduce side airbags. They were initially available as optional for model year 1995 850 and then upgraded to standard equipment for all Volvo models.

The 3-point seatbelt, which might make you smile when talking about "safety innovations", was also a world first when it was installed on Volvos in August 1959. Since the results of 3-point seatbelts were absolutely amazing with hundreds of lives saved in the first year of availability, Volvo allowed other automakers to implement the system just for the sake of automotive safety.

The Volvo Safety Center is undoubtedly one of the most important safety innovations ever created. The $81 million investment is the most advanced crash-test facility ever created, allowing Volvo to conduct several types of tests on its cars.

In essence, the facility is based on two tunnels that aim to recreate a typical real-world accident. Basically, the cars are launched using the help of lasers, similar to guidance systems installed on military rockets, to precisely calculate both the direction and the speed. The Safety Centers lets engineers crash test vehicles at a maximum speed of up to 100 km/h (62 mph) at almost any angle, from head-to-head collision to 90-degrees impacts.

But the most important thing is actually the way the facility prepares the crash tests. One of the two tunnels can be adjusted by moving its position and modifying the angle of the impact. This way, the so-called world's most advanced crash simulator helps Volvo reproduce any type of accident, including animal-involving impacts.

And examples could easily continue but, since we're not going to tell you the whole company history, let's proceed to the next chapter.

Volvo XC60 in All Its Glory

Volvo claims XC60 is the safest model in the whole product lineup, featuring both traditional and next-gen safety technologies. For example, the vehicle comes with whiplash protection system, side impact protection system, roll stability control, hill descent control, collision warning with brake support, dynamic stability and traction control. In addition, it comes with City Safety, one of the latest safety innovations rolled out by the Swedish automaker.

In short terms, the vehicle is aimed at city driving, being capable of braking the car at speeds below 19 mph (31 km/h) in case the front-mounted sensors detect a high risk of collision.

XC60 was first presented to the general public in 2008 at the Geneva Motor Show and went on sale in Europe later that year. The model is expected to arrive in North America in 2009 to be sold as model year 2010.

Volvo XC60 received a five-star Euro NCAP rating for adult occupant protection tests and four stars for child protection. The model scored maximum points for the protection provided in the side impact and pole tests, Euro NCAP papers read. "The passenger compartment remained stable in the impact and the windscreen pillar was displaced rearward only 3mm after the test," they also mentioned.

Past and Future

Volvo has always been a company praised for its safety features despite the fact that lots of people actually criticized their models for the boxy appearance. However, consumers always loved safety, hence the popularity of the Swedish automaker around the world.

The block-like design first appeared in early '70s and continued until '90s when the Swedish automaker, together with the new parent company Ford slowly migrated to more aerodynamic and eye-catching models.

The 2-door coupe Volvo 780 perfectly represents the company's attitude towards car design during the aforementioned period. Boxy appearance, rectangular headlights and spacious interiors were the main attributes of the model. However, this model has always been praised for safety, incorporating a impressive line-up of standard equipment.

Unfortunately, Volvo's future looks kinda gloomy, with the economic recession slashing sales and forcing the Swedish automaker to beg for money from its domestic government. Moreover, Ford is now planning to get rid of the brand, despite the fact that it did so many things for the auto sector.

As we're sure you know if you've been reading the last months' news, the Swedish government repeatedly said it is willing to provide support to ailing automakers but insisted it won't buy a stake in neither Volvo nor Saab. Meanwhile, Volvo continues to innovate the auto sector so, let's just hope Lady Luck is on its side.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
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Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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