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Volvo Car's Safety Reputation Enhances Ford Brands

By: Ellen Akins | Ford Communications Network

Inspired by research conducted by Volvo, the Ford Five Hundred has a frame structure that helps absorb crash forces before they reach the passenger compartment.
DEARBORN, Mich., Feb. 1, 2005 -- Ford Motor Company's acquisition of Volvo Car Corporation (VCC) in 1999 is resulting in improved safety features across many of the company's products, from entry level to luxury vehicles, according to the company. Volvo is widely recognized as a leader in vehicle safety.

"The acquisition of Volvo Car was truly a merger of two great companies and a sharing of technical achievements," said Steve Kozak, chief safety engineer, Ford North America Product Development. "Volvo's fresh ideas and long history in safety helped us focus and strengthen our efforts."

The Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego and Ford Freestyle include a frame structure that helps absorb crash forces before they reach the passenger compartment. These structures were developed jointly by Kozak's Ford engineers and more than a dozen safety experts from Volvo.

The team also worked on the Five Hundred's new adaptive steering column. The adaptive steering column collapses in different ways during a frontal impact, depending on the amount of crash energy and size of driver. When the adaptive steering column collapses, it creates a "softer" column should the driver impact the steering wheel.

"Volvo Car had the first adaptive steering column. We didn't know what it was," said Kozak. "They taught us about it, and we put that same steering column design in all of our new products."

Aston Martin, part of Ford Motor Company's Premier Automotive Group, realized its goal of making its DB9 one of the safest sports cars in the world thanks to Volvo, said David King, chief programme engineer, Aston Martin.

"Volvo is renowned as the automotive safety leader," said King. "It was the perfect partner to assist in delivering the DB9's outstanding safety performance."

Crash testing on the DB9 was done at the Volvo Safety Centre in Sweden. Among other things, engineers tested the DB9's front and rear aluminum crumple zones, dual-stage driver and passenger airbags and seat-mounted side airbags.

"We were fortunate to have Volvo as a partner," King added. "This partnership has given us access to the latest safety technologies, best practice design guidelines and advanced computer aided engineering."

The safety benefits of the acquisition cut both ways, according to Volvo President Hans-Olov Olsson. He said that without the input of the Ford team, customers might have waited longer to realize the benefits of the industry's first Rollover Stability Control System.

"When you look at the XC90 and the Rollover Stability Control system, it was a cooperation with the Volvo team and the Ford team," said Olsson. "Without the support of the Ford team we wouldn't have had it in time for the launch of the XC90. That's a very good example of sharing of experiences."

The VIRTTEX driving simulator allows engineers to test their technology on sleepy drivers in a controlled environment.
For many years, Volvo had conducted research on drowsy drivers to develop technology that would alert them if they fell asleep at the wheel and drove out of their lane. The acquisition of Volvo Cars enabled Volvo Car researchers to use Ford Motor Company's VIRtual Test Track EXperiment (VIRTTEX) at the Science Lab in Dearborn.

The VIRTTEX allowed engineers to test their technology on sleepy drivers in a controlled environment. Test subjects entered the VIRTTEX simulator and sat inside a Volvo S80. They then "drove" for up to three hours on a simulated dark highway.

Kozak said the working relationships between Volvo Car's Swedish engineers and his primarily American Ford team were good from the start and grow stronger with each project they collaborate on.

"When Volvo safety engineers first came to Dearborn, they asked us a thousand questions. 'How do you do this? Can you show us how you take care of that?'" said Kozak. "There were some things we had done that they hadn't figured out yet. And they had made strides in safety areas we hadn't figured out yet."

Kozak's team shared the work they had done on side curtain air bags with Volvo Cars engineers, while the Volvo team provided information on adaptive load limiting seat belts.

"Our separate companies had developed those technologies at a different pace," said Kozak. "By sharing ideas, we got better performance from both companies. All in all it's been an extremely good move for Ford Motor Company."

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