It’s certainly been an odd time to be in the trucking industry (or any industry, really), but nonetheless Volvo Trucks North America has made plenty of headlines this summer. Among them: redesigns of its VHD vocational model and its VAH auto hauling truck; offering of its uptime services package free to customers; and, in April, offering a variety of finance programs to potential customers; among others.
In a recent virtual press conference, members of the VTNA team addressed much of this recent news and answered several other questions about the trucking industry, electrification, Volvo’s plans and more. Here’s what they had to say.
On the state of the industry
According to Magnus Koeck, vice president of strategy, marketing and brand management for Volvo Trucks North America, efforts such as the expanded financing programs have helped to get orders and inventory going.
“Orders have come up a little bit stronger than most have expected. So we see an effect from OEM incentives,” he said.
But will this continue? “It’s very hard to tell now, because some of the states have scaled back on their opening,” Koeck answered. “That will have an immediate effect on transportation. That means that truck sales might be pulled back for a bit if it seems that this is going to continue for a while. It’s still too early to say that we are out of the woods. There might be another forest coming up.”
But Koeck and Volvo remain optimistic. “We think that the third quarter and fourth quarter will improve over the second, and we truly believe that 2021 will be even stronger. How much? It’s too early to tell. But long term, no doubt, we will come back.”
On the potential that electrification becomes more widespread
Koeck was asked whether the current economic conditions might accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. Here’s what he had to say:
“The COVID situation has definitely put more pressure on environmental and sustainability questions. From that perspective, you can say that ‘yes, that will accelerate the need for sustainable energy sources like battery electric trucks.’
“But on the other hand, we also know that due to the COVID situation, lots of companies and states have lost money, and we all know that in order to get electric trucks going, we need to rely on subsidies from the states in terms of incentives and so on, and that may raise an issue in the short-term.”
Suppliers and OEMs have been affected as well, he continued, which may also have an effect on the timing of electrification. “You can probably argue both ways when it comes to this,” Koeck said.
But Volvo is moving forward with its electrification plans. The company announced the VNR Electric model in February, and the first model was recently delivered to the TEC Equipment dealership in Fontana, California, where it will be used for local transportation of parts.
“We still have plans to make the VNR Electric commercially available. The next two trucks will be in operation with customers in August, and we will accelerate from there,” Koeck said.
On communicating with customers during the pandemic
In its latest bit of news, Volvo Trucks North America announced that it is offering existing and potential customers the opportunity to participate in live video walk-arounds of pilot trucks at its Volvo Trucks Customer Center in Dublin, Va. According to the company, customers are provided with a first-hand look at truck details and the opportunity to provide input, including making requests or changes to their specification.
“This has proven to work very, very well. These tiny cameras can go around the engines and beneath the trucks and you can see things that you normally can’t do if you are there physically,” Koeck said. “But of course, we hope that we can open up for physical visits going forward.”