The question of whether it is a real Volvo can be answered with the Volvo 343 with yes. Okay, now critics will say, isn't it actually a DAF? That's what it is, and it's actually the big DAF that, planned under the project number P900, was later to bear the name DAF 77.
But that didn't happen, Volvo had previously taken over the passenger car division of the DAF Group and the Swedes had already had a few cards in the game. Already during the development phase, the DAF engineers had access to Volvo technology. In terms of safety and bodywork, the 343 was a true Viking from the start.
The Volvo 343 has an image problem
But Volvo had an image problem with the 343. The stepless variomatic was special when it was launched in 1976, but above all it was very typical for DAF (Link). And even the buyers were the typical, more sedate clientele who would have ordered a DAF 66.
This was not how the Volvo had presented itself.
The problems were quickly identified. The ambience was DAF and not Volvo and the variator was the real problem. In 1977, a year after its launch, the 343 received its first DNA transfusion. The compact got the seats from the Volvo 242, the switches for the heating control, and a black, more valuable dashboard in the style of the brand.
Then in 1978 the next blow. In autumn, the Swedes finally introduced their own 4-speed gearbox as an alternative to the variomatic that had been the only ones available until then. The result was immediately available in the statistics.
Sales figures immediately went up.
In addition, a year later, the Volvo 345, a long-awaited five-door model, followed, and other equipment lines followed, creating an upscale ambience that is typical of the brand.
Volvo 343 – in Volvo quality
In fact, the 343 was now becoming visible on German roads, but the image was still that of an unexciting variator car. To change that, the German importer took countermeasures. Together with the tuner Oettinger (Link) the Volvo branch launched a performance-enhanced special series of the Volvo 343, which was immediately sold out.
Marketing placed advertisements in German magazines – promoting the Volvo quality of the 343. That sounds a bit strange, but it was an open wound that still didn't seem to have healed after quality problems at the Dutch factory during the start-up phase.
In June 1980, the manufacturer emphasized the excellent quality of the body of the small series, economy and complete equipment. Simply Volvo quality. To ask?
Only a few months later, the Swedes treated their Dutch offspring to another profound improvement. The bumpers, which were pulled further around the body, were visually striking. They only now ended at the wheel arches and should ensure a beefier, Volvo-like appearance.
It wasn't entirely successful. Because the 300 series stuck with the DAF stable smell until the end in 1991.