The iconic Volvo FH reaches a milestone this year – its 30th anniversary. And one of its first ever customers remains as impressed with the vehicle today as they were back in 1993.
1993. Bill Clinton was inaugurated as the 42nd president of the United States, Jurassic Park wowed cinema audiences, and Whitney Houston left her mark all over the world with the ballad I will always love you.
In Sweden, meanwhile, Göran Sanfridsson became one of the world’s first owners of a brand new Volvo FH truck. Little did he realize at the time that it was the start of a relationship that is still going strong some 30 years later.
“I remember having to sign a secrecy contract, and we went over to the Volvo demo center to test drive the new trucks. Everything felt new. The interior of the cab was completely different, the steering, all of it. It felt like a really big deal for us” recalls Göran.
For Göran Sanfridsson, like the industry at large, the FH really was a game changer. They say first impressions count, and in terms of looks alone, its eye-catching design made it stand out immediately, Göran recalls.
“I remember seeing the cab and how different it was, both on the inside and outside. The steering, everything felt new and fresh. It made such a difference to our drivers, especially in terms of comfort. They appreciated it straight away.”
The new aerodynamic cab was one of many innovations that the newly released truck boasted. It also had a totally new chassis with a design that offered much more flexibility, along with a driveline which had a completely new 12 litre engine, not to mention technically-advanced efficiency and safety solutions. For the drivers in particular, the changes made the job a great deal easier, adds Göran: a factor that has continued with all the new generations of the vehicle since.
I remember seeing the cab and how different it was, both on the inside and outside. The steering, everything felt new and fresh. It made such a difference to our drivers, especially in terms of comfort. They appreciated it straight away.
A family affair
The Sanfridssons Åkeri story started long before 1993, though.
“It began in 1961,” says Göran. “My father, Alf, had one truck, in which he drove milk deliveries to and from a dairy. Demand soon started growing for other products and materials, including plastic and PVC pipes, Herrljunga Cider, as well as a regular supply of materials from Sweden’s fabrics heartland in Borås. By now, Sanfridssons trucks were undertaking longer and longer journeys.”
Sanfridssons remains a family-run company, today based in Ljung, Västra Götaland. Göran is the CEO, spending his time “fixing trucks and finance, and putting out fires.” His younger brother Torbjörn is Vice CEO, with special responsibility for transportation, while the third brother Mats is in charge of another part of the company involved with farming equipment.
Just like the Volvo FH, Sanfridssons Åkeri has followed an ever-evolving path. Given that the business acquires several trucks every year, Göran has lost count of the number of Volvo FHs he has had. But what is it about the truck that has kept him coming back, and what does he look for when he’s buying?
“First and foremost, it has to function well and be comfortable for the drivers. And if something goes wrong it’s really important that you have good support and things are dealt with. Service has to be within easy reach too – with Volvo, it’s good to know that there will always be a workshop not far away where things can be sorted out.”
A sustainable journey together
Thirty years after the delivery of the first Volvo FH truck, the stories of Volvo and Sanfridsson’s Åkeri continue to dovetail, with Göran looking forward to the arrival of the company’s first electric truck, the Volvo FM.
"I thought an electric truck would be suitable, so we decided to try one out. We can see how it works and learn something new. It’s also important to show our clients that we can keep up with technology, and of course to do what we can for the environment.”
Now available in electric, diesel-, and gas-powered versions, the success of the Volvo FH is testament to its continual evolution. The past three decades have seen the introduction of countless innovations over the six generations of the iconic truck, including the driver’s airbag, the automated gearbox solution I-Shift and Volvo Dynamic Steering, to name just a few. What binds them all are the Volvo values of safety, quality and care for the environment as the starting point.
All of which have helped the FH become Volvo’s most sold truck ever. It's an industry icon too, with nearly 1.4 million trucks sold in around 80 markets all over the world, and it has earned the unique distinction of being the only vehicle to have been selected “International Truck of the Year” three times.
And right from day one, Göran Sanfridsson has known he’s in good company.
Past to present perfection: see the trucks in action
We recently took both an original Volvo FH16 and a current model out on the road to see how they performed side-by-side. Here's how it looked: