The San Francisco Bay Area once had one of the world’s highest Volvo 240 concentrations, but a number of factors are conspiring to send vast numbers of Swedish bricks to The Crusher in recent years. How many? Let’s take a look at the 240 inventory I spotted yesterday at a high-turnover East Bay wrecking yard.
Keep in mind that this particular yard (which is owned by a steel company) keeps a car in the inventory for about two months before crushing it and shipping the result straight to China. Here we have 13 Volvo 240s, which will be replaced with a similar number two months from now, and the process will continue until they’re all gone.
This has gone on at a dozen or so Northern California junkyards, day after day, for the last five years or so. Here’s the same junkyard’s 240 inventory about a year ago.
Why? The last 240s rolled off the assembly line nearly 20 years ago, which means most of them have six-figure miles on the clock and frequent repair needs by now (the temperamental electrical systems, the 240′s only serious weak point beyond the stodgy image, tend to get flakier with each passing year).
However, the rise of the Toyota Prius among those who want to make a political/lifestyle statement with their cars has likely been the main culprit. During the pre-Prius era, the Volvo 240′s image of safety and frivolity-free Scandinavian stoicism made it a big hit in NorCal (despite the brick’s drunken-sailor-grade thirst for fuel)… but the Prius came along and the 240s got sold to those who couldn’t afford the annual $1,500-$3000 in repair costs from Sven The Volvo Mechanic when the usual 25-year-old-European-car problems cropped up. High steel prices mean a typical broken 240 is good for $400 in cold cash from the scrapper. Next stop, The Crusher!
Because plenty of folks still swear by the old Volvos and would sooner ride a mule than get behind the wheel of a damn Toyota, there will always be some of them roaming Bay Area streets. If you can do your own Volvo repairs, you’ll be assured of plentiful and cheap junkyard parts for at least the next few years.
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