3-point safety belt turns 50 this year

January 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

nils bohlin

The 3-point safety belt turns 50 years old in 2009 after first being fitted to a Volvo back in 1959.

It has been estimated safety belts have saved more than a million lives so far and they will continue to save over a hundred thousand lives a year.

The three point belt was invented by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin and fitted to 1959 model PV544 and Amazon 120s sold in Nordic countries from that year.

If you are wearing a safety belt, your chances of surviving a collision improve by 50 percent. The three-point belt is and will remain the car’s most vital safety detail. However, even more lives could be saved if belt usage increased.

“What makes the three-point belt unique is that it improves safety for all types of occupants, in all types of accidents. In both the front and the rear seats. One often talks about the protective effect in head-on collisions, but the belt also helps prevent the car’s occupants from being thrown out of the car in a rollover, for instance,” says Hans Nyth, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre.

It is the safety belt’s ability to keep the occupant in the seat that is of crucial importance. A massive 75 percent of people thrown out of cars in accidents die in the process. All told, the belt reduces the risk of fatalities and serious injuries from collisions by about 50 percent.

It is impossible to put an exact figure on the number of lives the three-point belt has saved since the 1960s – there are no globally coordinated traffic-safety statistics. Estimates put the figure at just over a million lives. And many times that number have avoided serious injuries thanks to the safety belt.

In Europe, the safety belt is estimated to reduce road fatalities by 40 percent every year. Within the EU in 2005, an estimated 11,700 drivers survived road accidents specifically because they were wearing safety belts. The figure for Germany alone was 2000. Had these drivers not been using the belt, the number of fatalities in Germany that year would have doubled.

Corresponding estimates for the USA in 2004 show that safety belt use saved 15,200 lives and resulted in society saving 50 billion dollars in costs.

Ford shifting ahead with dual clutch gearbox

January 22nd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

The dual clutch gearbox installed in the Volvo S60 Concept that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show recently is now officially coming to Ford’s lineup. The Getrag-supplied PowerShift gearbox will be available in the new Fiesta when it launches globally at the end of the year. Like the DSG units used in a number of Volkswagens, the PowerShift allows full automatic control or clutchless manual shifting.

Ford’s first PowerShift is already available in the current model Ford Focus with a 2.0L diesel engine. This unit is a wet-clutch system like most of the current VW DSG boxes. The new unit set to debut in the Fiesta is a dry-clutch system that’s both lighter and more efficient. The 6-speed PowerShift weighs 12kg less than the 4-speed automatic currently offered and should deliver 9-percent better fuel economy.

Volvo joins Detroit three in skipping Tokyo Motor Show

January 19th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

The 2009 Tokyo Motor Show is going to have to make do without another automaker, as Volvo has decided to save money by skipping the event. Volvo’s move comes after all three Detroit automakers decided to call in sick and be absent from the show, which is held every other year. Volvo, like the Detroit automakers, doesn’t have a major presence in Japan, making the decision not to head for Tokyo easier. With the fragile state of the global economy, the prospect of saving money is a smart move. Floor space, displays, plus travel and accommodations for employees can cost loads. GM spent $2 million at Tokyo in 2007, and though Volvo’s display wouldn’t cost that much, the total cost would still be steep.

No Japanese automakers have dropped out yet, but the lack of foreign automaker involvement could potentially postpone the show until 2011. Tokyo Motor Show officials will make a decision on what to do by early next month.

Volvo S60 concept ready to go

December 17th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo S60 Concept fq

At next month’s Detroit Auto Show, the Volvo S60 concept will be unveiled and will act as a teaser for the 2010 production sedan that should debut later next year. The S60 Concept demonstrates that Volvo’s new sedan will ditch the rather conservative get-up it currently wears in favour of a new, aggressive look. Profile views show off a coupe-styled roofline, while pointed headlights recline back onto the fenders and flank a reshaped Volvo grille up front. The concept’s rear is similarly detailed, with LED taillamps that hide the various signal colours until they are actually illuminated. Truck-like rear doors open and then slide backward to give a good look of the Volvo’s cabin. Inside, there is no B-pillar and a host of concept vehicle trickery. It’s hard to tell what is just for the concept and what will actually make it into the production sedan, but so far it looks like a marked improvement on Volvo styling of old.

Volvo working hard on green vehicles

December 12th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo Green fq

Volvo’s product development unit is still hard at work, even after Ford desperately put a price tag on the brand (click here to read news item). Volvo is busy developing more environmentally-friendly vehicles capable of meeting tough new  emissions regulations on the horizon, the Swedish automaker has been working on some new highly-efficient vehicles.

In addition to the DRIVe trio of ultra-efficient diesel-powered models, Volvo is working on an all-new micro-hybrid model. Set to join the lineup in 2011, the vehicle will be available in gas or diesel powered form, and a manual or automatic transmission. Fuel-saving technology will include a start-stop system plus brake-energy regeneration to cut consumption by nearly 5 percent. We’ll see a full hybrid (with the ability to run on electric power only) in 2012 with the D5 diesel engine. A plug-in electric is also expected to follow in the future.

$11.2 billion price tag on Volvo

December 5th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

If you have a lazy $6 billion ($11.2 billion NZ) laying around then Volvo could be yours. Ford first purchased Volvo for $6.4 billion back in 1999. Now, a decade later, unconfirmed reports say the automaker is asking nearly the same amount $6 billion for the Swedish brand. Ford are desperately trying to cut costs in an attempt to woo Washington a government bailout. But Volvo as attractive as it once was, like everyone else the automaker is struggling in today’s market as reported sales in the third-quarter were down 24%. Volvo has cut thousands of jobs, and has even been in recent talks with the Swedish government about financial support.

Potential interest in the sale may come from SAIC Motor Corp, China’s largest automaker and possibly Hyundai, but the fate of Volvo is at this stage uncertain.

Ford looking to sell Volvo

December 2nd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Ford Motor Company announced yesterday it will re-evaluate strategic options for the Volvo Car Corporation, including the possible sale of the Sweden-based automaker.

Ford said the decision to re-evaluate strategic options for Volvo comes in response to the significant decline in the global auto industry particularly in the past three months and the severe economic instability worldwide. The strategic review of Volvo is in line with a broad range of actions Ford is taking to strengthen its balance sheet and ensure its own survival.

“Given the unprecedented external challenges facing Ford and the entire industry, it is prudent for Ford to evaluate options for Volvo as we implement our ONE Ford plan,” said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. “Volvo is a strong global brand with a proud heritage of safety and environmental responsibility and has launched an aggressive plan to right-size its operations and improve its financial results. As we conduct this review, we are committed to making the best decision for both Ford and Volvo going forward.”

Ford said the review likely will take several months to complete. In the meantime, Ford will continue working closely with Volvo as it implements its restructuring plan under CEO Stephen Odell, who was appointed to lead Volvo earlier this year.

Crystal concept for Volvo S60

November 3rd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo crystal concept

Volvo Cars has engaged Swedish glassworks Orrefors to create a floating centre stack in crystal for the company’s next concept car, which will be a first taste of the next-generation Volvo S60. It will be shown for the first time at the Detroit international motor show in January 2009.

In the concept car the crystal-clear centre stack forms a wave from the instrument panel all the way to the rear seat backrest.

“It almost looks like a waterfall from the instrument panel, flowing through the centre of the car,” says Volvo Cars design director Steve Mattin.

“If you want to explore the full scope of Scandinavian design, Sweden’s glassworks are a natural source of inspiration. Large glass areas are also very much part of modern Swedish architecture, creating the special, light transparency,” says Steve Mattin.

The experts at Orrefors were keen to accept the challenge and the result is one of the most unusual and handcraft-intensive objects in the company’s 110-year history. Producing the stack was in itself a challenge beyond the ordinary – even for experts at Orrefors.

“The full-size crystal piece in the concept car will not be a production feature. However, it does open up opportunities to use crystal on a smaller scale in the future. We’ll have to see how our customers respond,” says Steve Mattin.

Beside the driver’s seat, the crystal console cuts straight through the instrument panel and its upper section forms a navigation screen at the precise height of the driver’s combined instruments.

The gear selector has a versatile new shape. In the horizontal position it offers drive in automatic mode. If the driver is in the mood for sporty manual gear changes, the lever can be flipped up into the vertical position. Beside the gear selector there is also the starter button and parking brake.

“We’ve put the focus on ergonomics and safety. With the combined instruments at the same height as the navigation screen, all it takes is a horizontal eye movement to switch between sources of information. Another example is the controls used when you start and stop driving are a few centimetres from each other near the gear selector,” explains Steve Mattin.