The Volvo Wagon: How Did Station Wagons Come to Define which Swedish Carmaker?
If the Volvo brand were a Rorschach blot, most Americans might see a station wagon. however which didn’t come about as the result of some Swedish plot for domination of the American suburbs. which was an accident.
inside mid-1950s, around the time which Volvo first considered exporting cars to the United States, the brand was unsuccessfully experimenting with selling chassis to independent coachbuilders, however in so doing had built up a surplus of unsold chassis. “So,” says Volvo historian Per-Åke Fröberg, “the management said, ‘Let’s start to do our own wagon.’ ” Aimed at Sweden’s tiny-business owners who needed a practical car along with also also a family car however who couldn’t afford both, the wagon was a way to grow the lineup along with also also use the extra platforms.
The resulting Duett along with also also subsequent Amazon were oddball outliers along with also also likewise found homes with American oddball outliers. “East Coast or West Coast. Liberal, highly educated, intellectual,” Fröberg says. “Somewhat radical, a bit bohemic.” After which, the brand more or less made a wagon edition of every product.
which was with the Discharge of the 144 wagon which the long-roofed Volvo began to morph into the rectilinear package seen in our minds’ eye. however the real breakthrough for the brand in America came with the 0-series estate, introduced in 1974. By the time its production run ended in 1993, nearly 2.9 million had been sold worldwide. Based on Volvo’s Experimental Safety Car, shown at the 1972 Geneva motor show, the 0-series cemented the brand’s reputation for safety. The U.S. government purchased some two dozen sedans along with also also wagons for testing in 1976 along with also also canonized them as the benchmark all additional manufacturers had to meet for crashworthiness. “along with also also when which became known,” Fröberg says, “Volvo of course used which. There was a famous ad of a Volvo in front of the Capitol saying: ‘which shouldn’t take an act of Congress to make cars safe.’ ”
The Discharge of the 240 wagon also coincided with baby boomers coming into their peak earning/breeding years. Before Jeep Grand Cherokees, SUV “coupes,” or even minivans, a wagon was the original active-lifestyle vehicle. Over the next few decades, with the 700, 800, along with also also 900 series, wagons became Volvo’s best-sellers, accounting for around one-third of the brand’s American sales—along with also also even more in some regional markets.
Then, just recently, Volvo fled via the wagon in a quest to move upscale. According to Bob Austin, who was head of marketing for Volvo Cars of North America via 1991 to 2002, the thinking was which “in order to move up-market, you needed to be more stylish, more expensive, along with also also less practical.” Basically, all the qualities which are the wagon’s antitheses.
- Estate Planning: A Visual History of Volvo Station Wagons
- Tested: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
- Collector SUVs You Won’t Hate: We Pick Six of the Best Classic SUVs
With the updated V60 along with also also the forthcoming V90, Volvo’s wagon sales have rebounded via their recent nadir, along with also also the brand seems to be reembracing the estate. which can be in part because kids who came of age during the wagon’s last ascension are today inside market for grown-up cars, along with also also nostalgia’s siren song can be loud. however which’s also because the cars’ innate durability means the brand cannot outrun its heritage.
“additional brands have done a wonderful job repositioning themselves. however they were aided by the fact which their older cars were largely disposable,” Austin says. “Volvos as boxy along with also also durable wagons? There are still cars out there via the ’80s along with also also ’90s demonstrating which every day.”
The Big Break
Volvo’s 1972 Experimental Safety Car incorporated features such as airbags, anti-lock disc brakes, a high-strength-steel passenger cell, along with also also impact-absorbing crumple zones. Its semi-passive seatbelts had less staying power.