The War Years: The US History of Volvo from 1940 to 1945

(This is Part Two of a continuing series of the history of Volvo in the United States.)

World War II had begun in Europe and would soon make its way to the United States. Gas rationing had begun overseas and citizens would be limiting their travel so the military would have the fuel it needed to participate in the war.

Volvo sales suffered because of the war. Its sales dropped to a paltry 5,900 units in 1940. But, was saved by the order of new ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) to the military.

The following year, 1941, was a continuation of the previous one. Even though it sold its 50,000th Volvo vehicle that year, sales in the private market continued to drop. Citizens were preparing for war and the breadwinners of the home, adult males, were being prepped and drafted into wartime service. Most of the cars produced now were for officers.

In 1942, Volvo makes a major acquisition that remained "under the radar" as all attention had now gone to the war: K√∂pings Mekaniska Verkstad. It was an engineering company that supplied gears and gearboxes. Around that time, too, a small group of technicians and researchers at Volvo started working on a "post-war motorcar".  It would be a large "American style car" that would help drivers leave the war behind and return to normal life again. Its name and number were still in the development stages.

"Peacetime" was the word on Volvo's lips as they begun earnestly creating prototypes to hit the US market as soon as the Axis' white flags of surrender were raised. A larger PV60 would replace the PV53-56 models. The PV444 would have a smaller body and a new 4-cylinder, overhead-valve, 1.4 liter engine.

Meanwhile, the Volvo 'Roundnose' truck was a workhorse for US solders transporting supplies here and overseas. A modified version debuted in 1943.

In the final full year of World War II, 1944, Volvo introduced laminated glass windscreen in its PV models. It was believed to be the safest windscreen on the market. In September 1944, Volvo displayed its entire range of private and military vehicles and products at an expo in the Royal Tennis Hall in Stockholm. More than 150,000 people attend the historic event. Over 2,000 orders are placed for the new PV444.

Ironically, the new PV444s would not be delivered until 1947.  PV60s were also introduced and the line would last until 1950.

The final year of the war, it could be said that Volvo became "twice as nice." Despite having problems acquiring rubber and metals to build the new PV444, Volvo grew in interest in the US market in 1945.

In fact, customers were willing to pay twice the price just to own a new Volvo PV444. It became known as "the people's car." That same year the Volvo B51 Bus began production and would forever change the look of mass transit.

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