The first press program conducted by Marc Gustafson after taking over as president and CEO of Volvo GM Heavy Truck Corp. highlighted Giant Class 8 trucks designed for heavy work, and loaded with driver-appealing features. Previously Gustafson held the No. 2 position at Mack.
Gustafson's first program projected an upbeat outlook for 1997 despite his forecast putting this year's sales of heavy duty Class 8 trucks at 185,000 units--off about 7% from sales last year. Gustafson added this significant comment, ÒThis year appears to be the low point of the sales cycle, with Class 8 retails trending upward from here on out through the next several years.Ó
After a sales expansion in late 1996, followed by further gains traced to introduction last fall of the hefty VN Series of advanced conventional models, the company has been able to increase production at its New River Valley Plant in Dublin, Va., from 40 to 63 units a day on one shift.
ÒNew orders have been so positive,Ó Gustafson said, Òthat we have very aggressive targets to meet for increased line rates through the rest of 1997.Ó
The latest addition
The Volvo 770, the latest addition to the producer's line, captured the spotlight at the most recent new model introduction. At 96 in. wide, 77 in. deep and 98 in. tall, it has dimensions to back up its claim to rank among the largest of new truck models. With automatic climate control, easy-to-reach switches and controls, heated, ergonomically designed seats for driver and passenger, plus panoramic visibility to the front and the sides, this flagship of the Volvo GM line was designed to be a driver-pleaser.
There are plenty of work features built into the vehicle, for instance it has the strength to handle a gross combination weight (GCW) maximum for tractor, the trailer or trailers that it tows, plus cargo of 125,000 lb.
The Volvo VE D12A-345 diesel engine is standard in the 770 with options from Caterpillar, Cummins and Detroit Diesel offered. Top power rating is 525 hp. An interesting note came out as Gustafson was discussing engines in the 770. Volvo diesels made up 20% of the power plants installed in the company's trucks built here in the last quarter of 1996, up from 13% in 1995.
Fuel efficiency remains a prime concern in the heavy truck field in view of the continued high cost of the fuel used. Gustafson commented, ÒThe Volvo 770 has a lower coefficient of drag than other VN Series models, which are 14% better than the (older) Volvo Aero models.Ó Further, he added, the company's new VE D12 diesel delivered a 1.5% gain in fuel efficiency.
Rounding out the selection of robust components in the 770, are Volvo, Eaton and Rockwell transmissions from nine to 18-speed. Volvo, Rockwell and Eaton front axles to 16,000 lb are offered as are tandem rears to 40,000 lb from Eaton and Rockwell.
Gustafson said Volvo GM has some participation in the swing to wider use of self-shifting transmissions. The Eaton AutoSelect 10-speed easy shifter is available Òat a greatly reduced costÓ when specified on a Volvo conventional model. In addition, Allison automatics are used in Volvo vocational models, such as those for refuse and beverage hauling.
All new Volvo models designed recently have been tailored for sale in North America, Gustafson said. However, while the VN series was being developed here, the U.S. company was given worldwide responsibility for all conventional offerings from Volvo Truck Corp. This resulted in some VNs now being sold in Australia.
Most company manufacturing work is concentrated in New River Valley, while cabs for some specialized lines are started at American Commercial Vehicles in Orrville, Ohio, and finished in Virginia.
Kelley is a truck writer based in Dearborn, Mich. You may write him in care of the editor.