World War II was raging in Europe when Volvo introduced the PV444 at an exhibition in Sweden in 1944. Sweden was a neutral country, and auto manufacturing continued there throughout the war, although a shortage of materials and a major labor strike in 1945 prevented the start of production of the PV444 until 1947. After World War II, however, demand for small, fuel-efficient cars was great, making delivery of the early models very slow. The PV444 was first exported to the United States in 1954. The first model seen in the United States was a two-door sedan that had the basic profile of a 1946 Ford, with its sloping rear end and high rear windows, although the Volvo was smaller. The PV444 was the first Volvo to have a windshield of laminated safety glass, but it would be several more years before the automaker would gain its reputation for safety. Like many European cars of its day, the Volvo had mechanical directional signals in the door pillars: When the driver hit the turn signal, a mechanical arm stuck out of the side of the car to warn other drivers. Volvo eventually sold a station-wagon version of the PV444 in the United States as well.

Price $1,995 (1954 U.S. sale price)

Engine 86.65-cubic-inch in-line four

Horsepower 70 at 5,500 rpm

Wheelbase 102.5 inches

Overall length 177 inches

Seating capacity 5

Year 1944

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Population 138.3 million

Dow Jones industrial average (year-end) 152.32

Academy Award movie "Going My Way"

Milestone Chiquita bananas introduced