Over a dinner of crayfish in Stockholm in 1924, two men decided that Sweden needed its own car manufacturer, one that would make vehicles suitable for the harsh local climate and whose guiding principle was safety.
From their idea came Volvo — a Latin translation of “I roll” — which rolled its first car off the assembly line 90 years ago today. The original model, the ÖV4, was affectionately called “Jakob.”
A Volvo shipment to the U.S. in 1960.
Stan Wayman/LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images
The Swedes were hardly the first to produce automobiles; Karl Benz and Henry Ford, among others, had been at it for decades.
In 1999, Ford Motor bought Volvo, which was then sold in 2010 to Geely, a Chinese automaker, for $1.3 billion.
For the new owner, buying Volvo was momentous: “We are like a poor farm boy pursuing a famous movie star,” Li Shufu, Geely’s chairman, said.
By the end of next year, the company, which is still based in Sweden, plans to make up to 100,000 cars annually in South Carolina.
It’s a head-spinning tale of globalization that started over a humble meal almost a century ago.
Like this? Use form in upper right to receive free updates