At the Technology Summit at the Volvo Customer Center in Dublin, Virginia, Volvo Trucks North America not only highlighted its latest technology; it also gave reporters a report on the state of the North American truck-building industry and the company's position within it.
In his opening remarks to journalists at the summit, Roger Alm, president of Volvo Trucks, said, “Other truck companies change with the times. Volvo is committed to changing the times.”
Looking at the wide array of diverse new products, systems, technologies and upgrades the Swedish truck OEM highlighted during the course of the day it would be hard to argue with him. The latest Volvo product offerings detailed included a second-generation turbo-compound diesel engine, a new steering assistance system, and upgrades to Volvo’s advanced active safety systems – as well as a first look at the new Class 8 VNR battery-electric tractor.
The day began, however, with business news and the announcement of a major investment in Volvo’s North American manufacturing facilities and processes.
“We are moving into new technology today. We will start serial production of electric trucks next year,” Alm said. “But the internal combustion engine will be the dominant power source in trucking for many years to come. But we are investing in our product portfolio and bringing new technology to market all the time.”
Alm and Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America, briefed reporters on the state of the North American truck market as seen by Volvo analysts, as well as significant investments in both dealerships and manufacturing facilities.
Alm said that if current build rates hold up, he expects to see a total of 311,000 new Class 8 trucks roll onto North American highways this year. That number is a bit lower than the company’s initial estimate of 325,000 units, which Alm said was a natural consequence of the economy slowing down somewhat.
Still, Voorhoeve noted that 2019 was shaping up to be a “very good year,” and added that while the economy and the trucking industry did indeed seem to be cooling off somewhat, this was to be expected given the red-hot production numbers the industry has seen over the past couple of years.
Volvo currently has North American market share of 9.6% — a figure lower than the 10% market share the company posted in 2018. Voorhoeve said this was due to delivery issues that hobbled the company in early 2019, but that he expected to make up lost ground and finish the year at 10% once again.
“In some ways, Volvo is still a new brand in North America,” Voorheve noted. “We’ve been here since 1982.” The success of any truck brand in North America — which remains Volvo’s largest market globally – depends on having a solid dealer network, which Voorheve said Volvo has made a priority from its earliest days in the United States and Canada. To date, he noted, Volvo has invested $619 million in its dealership network, which has grown to 435 locations since 2010, along with a whopping 296% increase in Volvo Master Technicians and a 64% increase in service bays.
Building on those successes, Voorhoeve announced that Volvo will invest another $400 million in its New River Valley truck plant in Dublin, where all Volvo trucks sold in North America are built.
Major components of the investment include a new 350,000-square-foot building that will ultimately house truck cab welding operations; an expansion of the existing plant to allow for further improvements to the facility’s paint operations and overall material/production flow; and a variety of equipment upgrades, including installation of several state-of-the-art dynamometers for vehicle testing.
“The outstanding product line currently produced at NRV has strongly positioned Volvo Trucks for the future,” Voorhoeve said. “This investment is another sign of our confidence in that future, and will help us prepare for even more exciting products – powered by both diesel and electric drivetrains – in the coming years.”