When we enter the top-secret design studio Asok George stops in front of the new Volvo FH. “Every time they uncover it I just have to stand still and look for a moment. Everything is new, but there’s no doubt we’re looking at a Volvo.”
Asok George is responsible for the exterior design of the new Volvo FH, but the distinctive personality was a priority for everyone on the design team. “With its sloping windscreen the Volvo FH has always been easy to distinguish. And it will continue to be so,” says Asok George. Now with the windscreen uprighted to create more cabin space, the angle of the roof is even more important. Thanks to this the cabin still has an unmistakable profile.
“It shouldn’t go unnoticed when you drive a Volvo. Our goal is to make it the most easily recognised truck on the road,” says Asok George.
Carina Byström, interior designer.
We walk from one side of the cab to the other. Asok George and Rikard Orell, director of design at Volvo, point out different features and details. The tight joins between the body parts, the precise fit and finish that have been accomplished. Lines and curves on the cab, what designers call the graphics. Here the aim has been to create a solid shape, not a front and two sides. This is why the lines and graphics continue around the whole cab. But even more important than the lines is the stance – the attitude of the truck.
“Yes, this is vital. It has to express the truck’s efficiency and dynamics. It should look like it’s moving even when it’s standing still,” says Asok George.
The new Volvo FH appears to lean forward with its wheels pressing at the ground, ready to take off. This impression is partly built up by the graphics – an important area is the design of wheel housing and mud guard. The upper edge of the mud guard flares runs forwards and downwards – creating a dynamic line that reinforces the shape of the wheel arch.
A bigger and brighter space
We climb into the cab. Now we’re leaving Asok George’s design area and entering the domain of interior designer Carina Byström. It’s airy and light inside, despite studio lighting levels being nowhere near daylight. The escape hatch – which doubles as a sunroof – is part of the reason, but the cabin has bigger windows altogether.
“Volvo is a brand that cares about people.
We hope you can see this in the design”
“The design increases the feeling of space. That’s why we’ve worked with large, sweeping lines and created clean surfaces,” says Carina Byström.
“Take the instrument panel. This sweeps across from A-pillar to A-pillar emphasising the breadth of the cab,” adds Rikard Orell. Just like the exterior, the design inside the cab must express Volvo’s philosophy and its Scandinavian heritage. “The shapes and forms should be true,” says Rikard Orell. “Not complicated or artificial.”
Asok George, exterior designer
Details that distinguish
A lot of work has gone into the surfaces and materials. Demands on materials are tough – wear and tear is an issue and everything has to last.
“Quality is important, our customers are fussy about it. And so they should be,” says Rikard Orell.
Another detail that gives the Volvo FH a distinct profile is its side mirrors.
“We wanted to make the mirrors slimmer so they wouldn’t obstruct visibility as much. Now the entire mirror turns, instead of just the mirror glass inside a big casing,” says Asok George.
The slimmer mirrors also reduce wind resistance. Despite being higher than its predecessor – the leader in aerodynamics – the new Volvo FH is just as aerodynamic.
“By making the corners more rounded we’ve managed to build a cab with marginally less wind resistance,” says Asok George. The tight fit of body parts comes in here, too. For example, the join between the lower and upper part of the cab is completely tight. This covers the engine, suspension and details otherwise visible in the gap. “The truck is tighter all the way around. As a result, wind streams around the cab instead of through it. This does wonders for the aerodynamics and further reduces fuel consumption,” says Asok George.
Even the exterior colours help to make a lasting first impression.
Awesome but not intimidating
The design expresses self-confidence without being aggressive. The idea of course is to attract both operator and driver. “In recent years the value of a skilled driver has risen dramatically. There’s an art to driving a truck. For me the design is a celebration of truck drivers all over the world,” says Rikard Orell. But drivers aren’t the only ones who need to be satisfied.
“Transport operators are our customers, and society too – everybody who comes into contact with the truck when it’s being used. It’s great if people find our trucks awesome, but they mustn’t be intimidated by them,” says Rikard Orell.
“Volvo is a brand that cares about people. We hope you can see this in the design,” says Asok George, who gives the truck one last look before its grey cover goes back on again. .