Volvo Trucks talks new VNL spec'ing, technology and SuperTruck influence

Volvo Trucks talks new VNL spec’ing, technology and SuperTruck influence

The OEM addressed questions about its newest truck in a recent Q&A event.

Volvo Trucks North America announced a new generation of its on-highway Class 8 VNL truck, set for launch later in the year. Our story on the truck has the bulk of the equipment details, but of course, when a new truck launches, there are a lot of questions. Immediately after the announcement was made, Volvo representatives held a 45-minute Q&A session with the media about the new truck. We’ve collected excerpts of this Q&A and shared them below.

Before we get into the more elaborate details, here are a few quick-hit facts about the truck that were enumerated in the Q&A session.

1) Orders will open in late Q1 or early Q2. According to Magnus Koeck, vice president of strategy, marketing and brand management for Volvo Trucks North America, this depends on the present orderboard situation and the ramp-up speed in the factories.

2) Volvo is selling the trucks in various packages now.

What does that mean? It seems to be similar to the model the automotive industry operates under. Here’s Johan Agebrand, director of product marketing, with details: “It’s really to make sure that our customers can get the truck that they want that fits their brand, their image and all the features that they need to have. We will have a lot of different packages: we have exterior packages, so there’s four of them for different exterior design, and they are matched with four interior packages. Then we will also have powertrain packages, safety packages, we will have technology packages and then also going into the living environment, we have what we call amenity packages.”

This, he notes, is in addition to the choice of sleeper length.

3) There will be no option for a manual transmission. As Agebrand put it, “We are walking away from that.”

4) Most safety features are standard. This goes back to the packages mentioned earlier, but most of them have many safety features pre-selected.

“Our customers knows best what works for them and what they need in their operation. So there will be a default selection, but in many of these you will be able to deselect them and take out,” Agebrand said.

Now, on to the more elaborate answers from the Q&A.

How different is the new VNL compared to the previous version?

According to Koeck, “about 90%.”

“What we have done now is basically, we have taken a blank sheet of paper and we have redesigned and reviewed the truck from the bottom up,” said Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America.

“We’ve listened to our customers here in North America. We’ve looked at the requirements here in North America for the next coming decades, and that, all together, we put into the truck behind us,” Voorhoeve said, gesturing at the new VNL. “This is the platform for years to come. We will do everything on this.”

Peter Voorhoeve.

Can you still buy the existing VNL?

The answer is yes for now, Koeck says. “We will have parallel production for a while, a bit into next year,” he elaborates. “But of course, eventually, when we have phased in all the different components, models and features and so on, we will phase out the legacy model; but [for] at least half a year, maybe even longer, we will have both.”

Can we expect a VNL Electric?

“So this platform, as I said, is the platform for the next coming decades. We will do everything on this,” Voorhoeve answered. “Right now we have introduced the internal combustion engine [truck] and with the new level of fuel efficiency, this will have a gigantic impact when it comes to sustainability and impact on the environment. But then, this platform is ready for battery electric vehicles. This is ready for fuel cell. You will see autonomous on this platform. So it is a platform for everything. So I would say, stay tuned.”

What connectivity services are on offer?

“So in October of last year, we launched Volvo Connect, which is our ecosystem to expose all of our telematics data, all of our connected data as well as our services to our fleet managers,” began Nicole Portello, senior VP and chief digital officer. “We’re taking that now to the next level with a new app called My Truck app, and this will be an app specifically for the driver so they can interact with their truck, they can interact with live data and see the connectivity data as well. In addition to that, we will also have an integrated ELD solution through our Geotab partnership. This will allow the driver to enter his or her service hours electronically and that will be an automatic integration. We also have a new navigation platform that’s specifically designed with maps in mind for trucking. And then finally, we’re also focused on safety. We’re using the connectivity data in the truck to register an event that we might need to call 911 for. So we have the emergency 911 call as a service as well.”

“That automatically activates in terms of an airbag deployment or a rollover,” Koeck chimed in.

Was this truck influenced by the SuperTruck 2’s development?

“In the development of SuperTruck 2 there were a lot of learnings that we brought in to this truck,” Agebrand said. “You have the aerodynamic shape, and especially the windshield was quite heavily developed and tested together with the SuperTruck. SuperTruck has a little bit of a narrower hood, but the way the ground effects how the air flows underneath the truck was very much also developed in conjunction with the SuperTruck.”

How did customer feedback influence the design?

“So we had interior mockups that we showed for a lot of people going through and not telling them what kind of truck it was or anything,” Agebrand said. “We just had five, six, or seven different solutions for the Murphy bed and how to create an office environment in back of the truck for example. And then they came in and they told us what they like, what they didn’t like and we took all that to heart and redesigned quite a bit. That’s how we came up with our Murphy bed concept that is, for example, you don’t have to make the bed, you just fold it up and it holds the sheets and everything in place. It’s smaller stuff like that.”

How did customers who have seen the truck respond?

“Everybody was very enthusiastic,” Voorhoeve said. “Of course the truck looks great, but then it’s not only about the looks, it’s also about the interior. How does it drive? I think what we heard from the customers were a couple of things. They were excited about fuel efficiency. They were even more excited about the safety features. They were very excited about the driving comfort. And the driver environment—the way drivers live and work in this truck is highly appreciated. I think customers also saw the extra value that we drive with this vehicle. This will help them to drive their business more efficiently. So I would say yes, very positive reactions.”

Koeck said that the new VNL will be on display at this year’s coming TMC, TCA, Truck World and ACT Expo trade shows.

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