The September sun has slowly begun to creep up behind the mountains, giving the dry earth along the A-349 road a warm, brownish-red tone. On the road, which extends through the desert area of Tabernas and beyond the Sierra Filabres mountain range, three masked Volvo trucks have just begun one of their many test drives in the area.
The drivers today are Volvo Trucks’ customers that have been invited to provide feedback and give their input on these new truck models before launch. With them in the cab, each customer has a representative from the local market. During the drive, they rate everything from the overall impression of the cab to new features like Downhill Cruise Control and Passenger Corner Camera.
Volvo Trucks’ customers have always had an important and active role in the development of new trucks and functions. Unlike field tests – where the trucks are tested by customers for long periods and which provide important input for product development – these tests have a different purpose.
“For us in the sales organisation, it’s important to understand the product from a buyer’s perspective and know what it is the customers appreciate most. These tests give us a good idea on where we are right now,” says Tommy Aronsson, Sales Argumentation Manager at Volvo Trucks.
Earlier in 2019, Tommy Aronsson and his colleagues organised similar customer tests in Kiruna in northern Sweden. Then, the tests were held in tough winter driving conditions, with snow-covered, slippery roads and temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius. Here in Spain, it is instead winding roads and steep climbs that pose the biggest challenges.
“Since the customers are familiar with the previous models, they can easily make comparisons and see the strengths and weaknesses of the new trucks. Both the spontaneous reactions and the input we get from the customers are very valuable,” says Tommy Aronsson.
The test fleet rolling past Sierra Filabre’s marble quarry and olive groves consists of a Volvo FM, a Volvo FH and a Volvo FH16. Because the trucks are masked and the cabs are equipped with numerous measuring devices and cameras, the focus today is on evaluating functionality of the trucks rather than their design.
“This type of event is always very appreciated by customers – many feel proud to participate and share their insight. We also get a lot of questions from those who participate. You really notice that there is a lot of interest in the new trucks,” says Tommy Aronsson.
COUNTRY: Czech Republic.
BUSINESS: Transport of oversized goods.
TRUCKS: 35 of which 34 are Volvo trucks.
“The overall impression is very positive. For example, I find the new display very user-friendly. It’s easy to manage with the buttons on the steering wheel and the interface looks nice.
“When it comes to driving characteristics, you find the biggest improvement in the Volvo FM segment. This Volvo FM is a totally new truck, it’s like a different story.
“In the questionnaire, I gave the highest score to the front and the side mirrors. The visibility is amazing and the Passenger Corner Camera works very well. I also liked the new interior LED lights and that you can turn them on by just one simple touch.”
COMPANY: Danjak Ltd.
BUSINESS: Transport of flatbed.
TRUCKS: 5 Volvo trucks.
“The trucks are obviously not finished, but the driving today was fantastic. The roads are very different from the ones I normally drive on in the UK.
“I have very little experience with left hand-driven trucks, so I had to learn quickly. One thing I liked with the trucks is the new dashboard. I like the old one as well, but this is the next level. It’s very modern and you feel like you’re in a brand new car.
“Although Volvo FM wouldn’t be good for the operations we do, I really enjoyed the drive in that truck today. The visibility in the new cab is brilliant and you sit lower – I can see why this truck would appeal to certain operations.
Driver and traffic operator
COMPANY: Hedenskogs Åkeri AB.
BUSINESS: Transport and handle Tank containers.
TRUCKS: 6 Volvo trucks.
“I took part in the test drives in Kiruna too, and it is really fun to see how the trucks develop. The biggest difference in the FH, I think, is the display and infotainment system.
The new design looks really good and has a lot of useful features. One example is that the truck scans the speed limit signs. Another detail I like is that the new instep is made of plastic instead of aluminium, it feels like a definite improvement.”
“The new Volvo FM is great to drive: the cab feels much more spacious and the visibility is much better. For those driving in the city and in heavy traffic, it will make a big difference.”
“I’m really interested in technology, so it’s fun to get info about new developments early on. It’s also nice to be able to contribute with experiences from my daily life.”
COMPANY: Simeon Group.
BUSINESS: Transport of liquid goods.
TRUCKS: 230 of which approximately 100 are Volvo trucks.
“All the new trucks were very nice to drive. Volvo FH16 is a super truck on roads like this. But, for the operations we have, Volvo FM is better and we have been waiting for the new model. Compared with the old one, the new FM cab is like day and night. The visibility is very good and I think the Passenger Corner Camera is the one of the most important safety features in the last years.
“Today I used Adaptive Cruise Control on 98 per cent of the trip, it was so smooth and worked so well that I didn’t have to do almost anything. I also like that the Downhill Cruise Control is back as a feature in the new trucks.
“I think it’s very good that Volvo Trucks invite customers to participate in tests like this. As end-users, we know our needs and what works best in our operations. As a fleet manager, it’s also very good to know what new features are coming up.”