What if you were hosting the biggest truck launch in your company’s history and no one turned up.  That is exactly what happed for Volvo with the launch of its new truck range in Gothenberg last week.

The company, like so many other organisations had to pull the pin on bringing people into the global  truck launch, due to Covid 19 and the risks of flying people in from around the world to its Gothenberg HQ for the launch.

The global press event was cancelled only three days before flights were scheduled and the company hosted a web-based launch instead.

“At Volvo we always put safety and people as number one, and we will not make any exception,” said president Roger Alm,.

Despite having to pull the pin on the major launch Volvo is coming off a very good 2019, delivering 131,000 trucks around the world and coming close to knocking Kenworth off for number one heavy duty brand in Australia.

“That is also a record in terms of deliveries,” Alm said.

The four new models being launched, the FH and FH16, FM, and FMX account for around 70 per cent of Volvo’s global sales so they are vital to the brand’s ongoing success in the highly competitive truck market.

Volvo says the focus for the new trucks has been on the driver, with the company claiming improved communications and ergonomics, lower noise levels, and enhanced safety systems.

It says that the new FM and FMX cabs, for instance, are about 2 dB quieter, which equates to a 20 per cent reduction in sound levels in what is a cab that is about one cubic metre bigger inside than the trucks they will replace.

Volvo cites the need to make trucks more comfortable to attract drivers in what is a global crisis of driver supply.

The importance of this is underlined when you realise we are feeling a driver shortage in Australia as they are in other countries including North America, Europe and South America. In Brazil for example they are said to be short 100,000 drivers. Even in a developing economy like India with a massive population it’s estimated that 10 per cent of trucks are sitting idle because of a lack of drivers. Making truck driving more attractive and safer with better trucks could be a strategy for relieving the shortage of drivers.

The web launch also saw Volvo stressing it will continue to run on combustion engines, even against the backdrop of expanding electrification.

“We believe the combustion engine is an important technology going forward,” said Jessica Sandstrom, senior vice-president – global product management, referring to options such as biofuels and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“The global demand for LNG equipment – introduced two years ago as an option for the Volvo FH and FM trucks – would be even higher if the fuel was more available,” she said.

Volvo expects electrification to happen gradually, first with city applications such as refuse and distribution, followed by regional and construction applications, and finally longhaul.

The big news for Volvo emission and fuel economy wise  was the launch of the Volvo FH with I-Save for Euro 6 engines, which combines the new D13TC (turbo compound) engine with other features that can boost fuel economy by up to 7 per cent as well.

“The new range takes us into a sustainable future,” Sandstrom said.

“We are able to connect our customers’ trucks to their business more than ever before,  with real-time monitoring  now offered for critical components, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning,” said added Hillevi Pihlblad Rafidashti, Volvo Group’s director – strategic planning

“We can predict potential issues much more accurately and frequently than we could before,” she added.

Volvo says oil drain intervals are also increasing as much as 50 per cent  in the process, expanding from 100,000 km over 12 months to up to 150,000 km over 18 months.

Inside the trucks, all the models feature a new 12-inch digital instrument display with four different screen views, while an optional nine-inch side display with touchscreen is used for everything from infotainment systems to camera monitors.

Monitors also capture the image from a wide-angle camera located just below the passenger-side mirror to show pedestrians, and adaptive high-beam headlights in the FH and FH16 will automatically adjust based on the approach of other vehicles.

On the highway, the FH 16 now features Descent Control, which sets maximum speeds to help prevent unwanted acceleration when traveling downhill, and adaptive cruise control that works down to a complete stop.

Electronically controlled brake systems, collision warning, emergency braking and electronic stability control are standard, while options include lane-keeping and stability assist, and a road sign recognition system that will display things like speed limits in the driver display.

Volvo Group Australia spokesperson, Philippa Stewart says the timeline for the launch of the four new trucks for the Australia and New Zealand markets, the FH16, FH, FM and FMX will be “Australian Made” at the company’s factory at Wacol in Brisbane.

“They will be supported by local engineers, ensuring they are built for the unique, harsh Australian and New Zealand conditions, with intensive on-site testing ensuring they can withstand the toughest of conditions,” said Stewart.

“We plan to open order books for Australia and New Zealand during  the fourth quarter of  2020, for production in the first quarter  of 2021, and  we can expect to see customers trucks on the road from the start of second quarter of 2021,” she added.