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1927

In this era, imported cars usually fell apart within weeks of delivery due to poor build quality that couldn't stand up to Sweden's harsh climate. This is where Assar and Gustaf decided to build a car to be strong and durable. The Volvo ÖV 4 or 'Jakob' rolled out of the former bearing factory in 1927.

In the short time that cars had been around, road deaths were already happening. Starting in 1896 with Bridget Driscoll; the first person to die due to a petrol-engine car accident that occurred at around 4 mph!

1944

The outbreak of World War II slowed production of Volvo Cars. However, efforts could still be made as Sweden were neutral throughout the war. Volvo started crash testing cars using huge mechanically operated pulley systems that would hurtle cars into hard objects and bought to light the benefits of having crumple zones with a safety cage as a last line of defence. The PV444 developed in 1944 also featured a laminated windscreen. Features that took some manufacturers 30 years to adopt.

1959

Nils Bohlin was an engineer who had been working for the aircraft makers Saab in 1942, developing ejector seats. In 1958 he joined Volvo as a safety engineer who then invented the three-point seatbelt, and to this date has saved over 1 million lives. The reason for its success was the fact the device was made absolutely free to all car makers. Volvo were the first to see its value as a lifesaving tool and made it a standard feature in 1963, it wasn't until 1991 that front and rear seatbelts were made compulsory in the UK.

The concept of seatbelts haven’t changed much since 1959 however modern seatbelts with inertia reels are able to pretension the belts taking up to 12cm of slack thus reducing the effects of deceleration on the human body. Volvo's pretensioners are much more important due to the unique seat design that cradles occupants and absorbs kinetic energy, as a pose to transferring the energy to the person. 

1964

Volvo started testing the world’s first ever child seat prototype, developed by Prof Bertil Aldman at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. Inspired by astronauts' seats, these rear facing seats were crash tested in the PV444. In 1967 the first car seat adapted for children's safety was launched as an accessory for the Amazon and the Volvo 144.

Volvo launched the world’s first rearward facing child seat in 1972, later to be proven as five times safer for children than forward facing. Since then the design has been developed into the most advanced child seats available.

1972

The Volvo Experimental Safety Car was a concept to show the world what could be done in terms of safety. 5 vehicles were built and featured many ground breaking innovations some of which are used on current Volvos today. This car was the safest car in the world and revolutionised the industry's standards in terms of safety. New features included the following:

  • Safety belts of semi-passive type, that is to say the front seat belts were automatically strapped around the seat occupants when the car engine was started.

  • Extra-sturdy body. The front and rear sections were designed for optimum impact absorption. The passenger compartment was also protected by a robust network of beams in the roof, including an integrated roll-over cage. The body sides were reinforced with tubes to provide extra protection in a side collision.
  • The rear engine mounts were designed so the engine would be forced to slide down under the car in a frontal impact.

  • Airbags for both front and rear seat occupants.
  • Airbag as head restraint on the rear seat hatshelf.
  • Concealed front seat head restraints that automatically deployed in a collision.
  • A “disappearing steering wheel”. In a frontal collision, the steering wheel was pulled forward 150 mm, away from the driver.
  • Headlamp washers and wipers.
  • Rear windscreen washers and wiper.

  • The extremely pronounced bumpers gave the car a characteristic profile. They protected the body against panel damage in low-speed impacts at up to 16 km/h.
  • Anti-locking brakes.
  • Automatic ride-height control.
  • Automatic fuel supply cut-off.
  • Acoustic reversing warning.

1973

The Traffic Accident Research Team was formed with the task of investigating every collision in Sweden within 24 hours. For incidents within 100km of HQ, the team would respond with police to the accident scene and gather human injury and vehicle performance analysis. In some cases, Volvo buy the damaged cars for further analysis development for future products. So far over 40,000 collisions have been investigated resulting in numerous inventions and design alterations that Volvo encourage other manufacters to use for their own designs.

1991

After years of implementing and developing the safety innovations the Experimental Safety Car Concept bought, Volvo spent years innovating environmental solutions such as the three-way catalytic converter, that reduced emissions by 90% globally, the EGR valve, reducing NOX emissions and many more. Volvo now had chance to take the next step in safety. Side impacts were very common and little had been done in the industry to resolve this until now. SIPS involved changing the side structures of the cars so energy was absorbed and occupants were shifted away from the impact. This was achieved by making the centre console a crumple zone in a collision that allows the seats to slide away from the impact. This was later coupled with side impact and curtain airbags that trigger simultaneously.

1997

The Volvo C70 was designed to be the safest convertible on the market. With a network of preventative safety systems as standard, the C70's foundations were strong however, the challenge was the open roof and the implications it had when in a crash. The solution was increasing the rigidity of the chassis, adding boron steel reinforced A-pillars that allowed the car to roll at least 7 times before crushing, shortening the wheelbase and broadening the front and rear tracks. If, however the vehicle was to flip; automatic rollover bars fire upwards behind the head rests, effectively giving the car a roll cage. A few years later Volvo added a protective airbag that deployed from the doors firing upwards forming a mushroom shaped, protective bubble around the car in case of a rollover.

1998

Whiplash is a painful and usually expensive injury. It's also very common, which is why Volvo created a Whip Lash Protection System or 'WHIPS' as a solution, first bought into the Volvo S80 in 1998. It works by allowing a metal hinge in between the back rest and seat to deform, this absorbs energy and allows the seat to swing freely thus repositioning the occupant, absorbing energy and reducing the strain on the occupant's neck. The Traffic Accident Research Team reported that the WHIPS-equipped seat reduced the short-term effects of whiplash injuries by 33% and long-term injuries by 54%

2000

The turn of the millennium​ bought the opening of a new era in Volvo's commitment to safety innovation; opening the Volvo Cars Safety Centre​, in Torslanda Sweden, along with it's giant supercomputer that runs around 3,000 virtual crashes replicating any scenario. The only manufacturer to invest in such a huge project purely for safety development. At this point Volvo had decided that Vision 2020 was a possibility but needed a huge 20 years to achieve. 

The crash centre conduct approximately 400 full-scale crash tests per year and can replicate almost any crash possibility due to its unique design and expert team. A crash sequence is randomly selected from the supercomputer which is then replicated in real-life for accuracy. This take around 2 weeks to prepare for, requires 42 high speed cameras and lights that are 4x the intensity of daylight to allow the cameras to reach the extreme settings that capture every miller meter of change during a crash. The floor is also made of glass that allows the team to view every angle of the collision and an outdoor area provides space for testing crashes that no other organisation do.

Footage of what goes on inside Volvo's unique, state of the art crash centre in Torslanda, Sweden. The world's most advanced crash centre, accelerating the worlds safety innovation for nearly 20 years.

An aerial view of the crash centre in Torslanda, shows the adjustable tracks that can swing 90 degrees to help replicate crashes at all angles.

2002

Production of a Volvo Sports Utility Vehicle or an 'SUV' had been put off for years due to the implications the heavy, unbalanced vehicles bought. A typical SUV was built on a ladder frame chassis with longer suspension travel for off-road capabilities. This gave the SUV a high centre of gravity and a high ride height which causes a number of problems. The first obstacle was how easy it was to roll an SUV over in sharp corners. Volvo addressed this issue with the implementation of RSC (Roll Stability Control) that minimises the risk of overturning during sharp manoeuvres. Next, the Traffic Accident Research team found that SUVs tend to be forced ontop of oncoming vehicles and into the other car's windscreens during head on crashes. This may not be lethal for the occupants of the SUV however because the cars are unstable and pivot around the bumpers, spinal and neck injuries are very common and crashes involving non-Volvo cars had little chance of survival. Volvo addressed this issue by placing a crashbar to the lower front of the SUV, this bar was designed to activate the oncoming car's airbags and to anchor the cars together in a crash, thus reducing the severe spinal injuries usually found in SUV crashes. This was the foundation in which the Volvo XC90 was born onto, and since then there has been ZERO passenger or driver deaths within an XC90 making it the safest car in the world.

Watch the video to see the Volvo XC90 in crash action.

2004

First launched at Birmingham's Motor show in 2004, Volvo solved the industry-wide issue of blind spots in vehicles. The Blind Spot Information System or BLIS, used cameras located underneath the door mirrors that would signal lights built in near the A-pillars to alert the driver of a passing vehicle. If the driver were to indicate in front of the passing car, the BLIS lights would blink to gain the driver's attention.

BLIS has since been upgraded and now features a mitigation system that will steer drivers away from passing vehicles if the lights aren't noticed.

2008

In 2008, Volvo's first standard collision avoidance system was introduced called City Safety. The first generation of the system was made up of lidar sensors, that would constantly monitor a 6m area Infront of the car, then initiate full brake force if a crash was imminent. This was introduced by the Volvo XC60.

City safety has evolved over the years to include the ability to detect cyclists, pedestrians and large animals regardless of lighting conditions. Volvo also were the first to adapt the system to avoid crashes at junctions from adjacent facing traffic.

View the video to see how the first generation of city safety worked. Keep scrolling to find out what it has become.

2011

When you look at a Volvo head on, you will notice broad sides and a raised bonnet (in the centre). This design allows pedestrians to be directed away from fatal points of impact such as A-pillars, however, being the smaller hatchback the V40 has a much shorter bonnet. In order to keep pedestrians safer during impacts, Volvo created a pedestrian airbag. Upon impact the V40's bonnet is raised by 7cm at the end closest end to the windscreen and an airbag is deployed around the edges of the windscreen and partly up the A-pillars.

"The airbag has a dual function. It raises the bonnet to create distance. Then it helps to cushion the impact by covering the hard parts around the windscreen," explains Lotta Jakobsson, Senior Technical Safety Specialist at Volvo Cars Safety Centre.

2014

Nearly half of road accidents in America are caused by the vehicle running of the road. Volvo have pioneered the latest system to mitigate the effects of a run-off road situation. Firstly, the car detects where the edge of the road is using the cameras and radars. Once the car starts veering off track steering force is automatically applied thus keeping the Volvo on the road. If however the incident is unavoidable and the car exits the road; the stages of run-off road protection are started: 

Volvos have a 'secret' 30% brake force that humans can't usually access due to the intense forces involved. Volvo cars constantly learn driver behaviours in terms of how quickly the driver’s feet operate pedals, once quick and heavy brake force is applied by the human the extra brake force is applied by the car and the seatbelts are electronically pretensioned; the seat's, fitted with a crumple element, absorbs energy from the initial landing thus reducing spinal injuries. Then the seatbelt tensioning continues as the brake pedal retracts. This allows the wheels to strategically spin keeping the car on a consistent trajectory, airbags then deploy upon impact.

2016

The latest project Volvo are currently innovating puts cars and road users one step ahead of dangers. It involves simple telematics gathered as Volvos are driven around. The cars create a digital footprint compiled from events such as loss of traction, obstacles and other smaller traction control interventions that usually go unnoticed by drivers. When another connected car is driving the same roads, the driver is notified of a 'slipper road ahead' and the car prepares its traction for potential hazards picked up by the other road users. The footprint will remain on the road until another Volvo car drives over the affected areas and clears the danger (if circumstances change such as the ice melts/obstacle clears)

Volvo hope to partner with other car makers that they will adopt this new system to make roads safer for everyone.