Volvo eyes truck demand, greater fuel efficiency

LOUISVILLE, KY. Truck sales are on the upswing, with Class 8 sales expected to top 220,000 units this year, according to Ron Huibers, senior vice president-sales and marketing for Volvo Trucks North America

LOUISVILLE, KY. Truck sales are on the upswing, with Class 8 sales expected to top 220,000 units this year, according to Ron Huibers, senior vice president-sales and marketing for Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA).

At a press conference here at the Mid-America Trucking Show, Huibers said Class 8 sales began rebounding strongly late last year as large fleets and leasing companies began replacing older equipment.

“But now we’re seeing the character of the buyer changing,” he said. “Now regional and smaller fleets are back in buying new trucks.”

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Huibers noted VTNA began preparing for this uptick in new truck sales last year by making sure suppliers could handle greater demand. “The result is that we now have stock on the ground at our dealers; that’s going to give us an advantage as demand for new trucks keeps increasing,” he explained.

Magnus Koeck, vice president-marketing and band management for VTNA, also stressed that fuel economy is going to be a much more important factor in truck purchasing decisions going forward.

“It’s all about the monetary contribution to the bottom line now,” he said. “With the U.S. national average price for diesel now at $3.93, fuel costs really have an impact on that bottom line. That is why aerodynamics, AMTs [automated mechanical transmissions], and more fuel efficient engines are becoming much more critical to our customers.”

Along those lines, VTNA is rolling out a variety of enhancements to boost fuel economy. One is a new engine software packaged called “mass based variable torque” designed to adjust the engine’s torque when the truck is lightly loaded to improve overall fuel efficiency, said Ed Saxman, the company’s drivetrain product manager.

“We call this focusing on ‘momentum management,’” he said. “We all know lightly loaded trucks can really move. This software keeps that in check to maintain fuel economy.”

New exterior components offered for VTNA’s “fuel enhancement” package for the company’s 2011 Volvo VN highway tractors include redesigned mirror heads with aerodynamic shrouds and arms, redesigned hood mirrors that also increase visibility, new bumper and side fairings, and a newly designed bug deflector which further improves fuel efficiency.

Altogether, VTNA believes its fuel efficiency offerings can boost fuel economy by up to 8% for its 2011 trucks when compared to 2007 models, says Huiber.

“We see a lot of opportunity now with high fuel prices,” he said. “We’ve been through a tough few years but it’s exciting to be in this industry again. Last year proved better than expected in truck sales and we hope to carry on with that momentum.”

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