Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Tale Of Two Swedish Meatballs

Volvo 1800ES: The most beautious car evah
My newborn children came home from the hospital in Volvos. I put 262,000 miles on one of them and it never failed to start, including one morning when the temperature had dipped below zero. It's marvelous four-cylinder turbo could really crank, and in the late 70s I once did 125 miles an hour on a long straightaway in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico. The only reason that I stopped buying them was that Volvo didn't offer all-wheel drive back in the day, which my mix of sea level and mountainous winter driving eventually demanded.

I winced when Ford bought Volvo in 1999 and had chest pains when General Motors bought Saab, Volvo's longtime Swedish competitor, in 1995. I feared that these big foot automakers would bleed them dry and eventually kill them. As it turns out, Ford pretty much let Volvo chart its own course. GM, while keep quirky Saab trademarks like the transmission tunnel ignition key, drove the company into the ground by rebadging Opals and Saturns as Saabs after making a few cosmetic styling changes.

Today Volvo, still on the quirky side styling wise although it has shed its boxy image (the 1800ES was a conspicuous exception) is owned by a consortium of Chinese companies and its Gothenburb plant is working on two shifts to meet global demand. Meanwhile, the Saab plant in nearby Trollhattan has been idle since April and its future is very much in doubt.

More here.

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