The history of Volvo Penta’s engines for marine vessels and industrial use

One day, back in 1907, Edvard Hubendick stepped off the train in Skövde, Sweden, heading for a large mechanical workshop not far from the station area. Little did he know, that his visit would lead to the start of one of the world’s leading supplier of engines and complete power systems for marine commercial and industrial applications. Get a glimpse at Volvo Penta for professional user’s journey throughout history. I hope you will enjoy!


From B1 to Penta with over a 100 years of experience

03_Edward_Hubendick Edvard Hubendick was one of the leading engine designers of his time, and he presented the first wholly Swedish-built boat engine. It was a modern one-cylinder engine with an output of three horsepower. Edvard and his four colleagues called the engine B 1 during the manufacturing but they later renamed it Penta, which means “five” in Greek. The production of the Penta engine started the following year and the first 20 engines were released on the market in 1909. The motor was an immediate success.

Volvo Penta – the breakthrough engine that built the brand

The boom carried on for years, but the Great Depression following the war soon changed the conditions. The engine that would save the day was an outboard developed in-house, called U2. Production began in 1922, and by 1930, a total of 7,874 engines had been sold. The outboard put money in the bank and made Penta a well-recognized name in the boating world. Penta was seen as standing for quality and reliability, traits that would become valuable hallmarks for the company.

Pentaverken in Gothenburg was the size of a car repair shop with 11 employees

In 1925, Volvo’s founders, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson, decided to invest in a Swedish built engine for Volvo’s new car, a decision that would have a profound impact on Volvo Penta’s future. Production was plagued by recurring disruptions since car, boat and industrial engines had to share the same space in the crowded factory. Based on this they decided to move the departments for design and sales from Skövde and created AB Penta­verken in Göteborg. It was from this company that AB Volvo Penta would later emerge.

Nurtured relationships with boat builders and industrial customers

In 1949, Harald Wiklund was made executive manager. His strategy was to develop a complete engine range. He began work to modify diesel engines from Volvo Trucks for marine and industrial use. He systematically built up a distributor network in Sweden and abroad, and nurtured relationships with boat builders and industrial customers. He also focused on the spare parts business. During the 1960s, the wheels of industry were spinning at full speed. Volvo Penta’s industrial engines were highly sought after in Sweden and Europe, why new product launches were frequent. The engines were used in power generators and compressors exported around the world. At the same time, Volvo Penta’s 6-cylinder diesel, the GP engine, became a popular solution in many fishing and commercial boats.

Industrial engines

The industrial engines and commercial boat engines grew in importance

The company became an independent entity within the Volvo Group in 1982. The 1980’s represented a breakthrough in industrial engines and power generators. Volvo Penta’s large 16-liters diesel engines, TID 162, were delivered factory-assembled with generators in a so-called Genset. The diesel-powered generator units were used in many applications, particularly as a power source for driving pumps and irrigation systems in developing countries and as reserve power in factories and hospitals. During the 1990s, product development and new engine launches moved forward at an astonishing pace. The industrial engines and commercial boat engines grew in importance, helping to offset the huge swings in the leisure boat market.

Volvo Penta has a long history of development and improvement of their products

Volvo Penta has continued on its groundbreaking path, further developing drive systems and electronics applications. The industrial engines, primarily manufactured in Skövde, have become an increasingly important business and now account for half of Volvo Penta’s total sales. The development and sales of industrial motors gives synergy effects to the Volvo Group’s other engine programs, and in this way Volvo Penta is able to actively contribute to the Group’s continued development and competence. Today, Volvo Penta is one of the world’s leading suppliers of engines and complete power systems for marine and industrial applications. Few could have imagined this remarkable success story when Edvard Hubendick stepped off the train in Skövde and began designing Volvo Penta’s first engine.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog article about Volvo Penta’s history. If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to contact me or visit our website.   

This article has 2 comments

  1. Taylor Bishop Reply

    Really interesting read about the history of these marine engines. It’s so interesting that the outboard engine U2 was developed in 1922, and sold almost 8,000 engines in eight years. I’m actually really interested to see what this outboard was like, or at least compare the design of it to modern ones.

    • Johan Aspeqvist Reply

      Great to hear that you enjoyed the article. You have to try to get hold of an U2-engine and do the comparison. If you’re out of luck you can always find it at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg!

      Thanks again for your comment!
      Johan / Volvo Penta

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