With the Volvo 343, the Swedes had an image problem

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.

Volvo 343 (1980)
Volvo 343 (1980)

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.

Advertisement for the Volvo 343 (1980)
Advertisement for the Volvo 343 (1980)

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.

8 thoughts on "With the Volvo 343, the Swedes had an image problem"

  • And finally, Volvo has set its sights on the GTI. The PS were at a similarly high level and as far as I know, the differentiation came more from the transaxle principle, gears on the rear axle. Not a bad alternative for anyone who isn't Vauweler or Opelaner. The successors 440 and 480 are once again coveted exotics, especially the 480 turbo.

    • blank

      Yes, you can actually still see the 480 on the road. He already has something!

      And the 343 was better than its image too. She was 18, I was 16. My first girlfriend had a...
      A switch with the modifications already mentioned here. Felt like a Volvo inside and out, quite similar to my parents' 245 1984 model enough to clearly see and feel the brand affiliation. And the chassis was maybe even better. The 240s were essentially still based on the chassis of the Amazone from the 1950s right up to the end, had an amazingly narrow track and initially also a very, very short wheelbase, until they took over the slightly longer 260s. The Volvo 140, 160, 240 and 260 always look and sometimes feel like too much car on too little chassis - positively as well as negatively. The small turning circles are legendary and have been advertised again and again. Wheeling these boxes into the tightest parking spaces is child's play and the chassis dimensions also work surprisingly well on field and forest paths. These things can be beaten up mercilessly and sometimes even win the Midsommar in their class in front of several Porsches that are a few years younger...

    • I had the 480 Turbo on my radar before I bought my first new Saab car. I thought the Volvo was a designer piece and I would have liked it. However, the technology was not so convincing, the Turbo (Renault) did not come close to keeping up with the 900.

      But I still like the shape of the 480 today.

      • blank

        The 480 is just one vehicle class below the 900. No comparison! Somehow still good.

        It is the modern Swedish small car for design enthusiasts that Saab never had ...
        The tail with the glass quote from Snow White's coffin has something. The front too and there were original and distinctive rims that suited him well...

        But he is special and also somewhat dysfunctional. You had to want it exactly the way it was or buy a different car. It probably falls into the category of very appealing but ultimately not convincing. At least that's how it always felt for me...

        Today it is a classic and has outgrown such standards.

        • In theory you are right. Not so in practice, but the 900 is to blame for that. It is quite narrow and, although half a meter longer, is even slightly inferior in width to the 480. The sense of space is therefore similar in the front seats (and the Volvo has the more modern feel too).

          Back then it was really just the engine and the special charm of the 900 that made the difference.

  • blank

    The small 70 hp engine with 1,4 liter displacement
    also came from Renault.
    In the 400 and first 40 series, there were still some engines and transmissions from Renault.
    All these vehicles were also built in Holland.

    • blank

      It was just a time when the 6-cylinder (Euro V6) of the Volvos were very French ...

      Here I find the Volvo story surprisingly similar to the Saab history. There was a long phase in which Volvo only had petrol engines and only 4-cylinders of 2,0 (Italy) or 2,1 or 2,3 liters from consistent in-house design and manufacture. All other engines were purchased or the product of a participation ...


Leave a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked with * marked