Volvo Australia looks ahead to a fossil-free future

By: Ben Dillon

Volvo truck tech, Mack developments and UD status all on agenda

Volvo Group Australia CEO Martin Merrick

Speaking at the group’s 2021 press conference, Volvo Group Australia CEO Martin Merrick outlined VGA’s direction in the local market, stating that its global aim is to have 35 per cent of Volvo trucks utilising electric drivetrains by 2030.

While Merrick wouldn’t provide an estimate on the percentage of local electric trucks the company hoped to be shifting by the 2030 target, he set out a road map for the brand which features electric and alternative fuel drivetrains.

Another couple of future dates to keep in mind for Volvo are 2040, when the company says it will no longer be using fossil fuels, stating that LNG and biodiesel will be the future drink of choice for its trucks, and 2050, the target set by the company to become carbon neutral.

"We are on a journey toward fossil-free transport solutions by 2040 – that said, the internal combustion engine will be with us in Australia for a very long time to come," Merrick says.

"With the research going on today into alternative fuels, perhaps we will see an internal combustion engine which is fossil free."

When questioned if a hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine would be on offer, VP of sales, strategy and support, Paul Illmer ssys that hydrogen fuel cell technology is the only hydrogen tech Volvo is interested in at this time.

Related news: Volvo long range electric trial in Europe

Also juggling the role of acting vice-president of Mack, Merrick announces the Anthem and Trident models will feature predictive radar-based cruise control, a proprietary Mack technology which is part of VGA’s hope for zero collisions in the future.

"It learns the topography of routes and stores the information to automatically adjust the speed, torque and gearing to deliver the best fuel performance on saved routes."

When it comes to safety in the updated Mack range, in particular the lack of driver-side airbag in the Anthem, Merrick highlights a package to improve safety of the Mack range.

"Mack trucks international has committed to invest in around A$100 million in the Mack product range over the next three years. Of course I will say the airbag will come but we are on that journey," he says, adding: "We take what we have from the US and then build what we need here in Australia, so watch this space."

Mack range with more safety features

With Tony O’Connell's departure to fill the MD role at Volvo Malaysia and promotion of Gary Bone from Mack to Volvo, Merrick will continue to fill the void left at Mack until a suitable replacement is found.

VP of UD Lauren Downs takes the opportunity to further outline what the UD and Isuzu partnership will look like, with the main theme being that it’s not a clear-cut change of ownership of UD to Isuzu but a ‘strategic partnership’ that benefits both parties, stating that how this strategic alliance works will differ in different markets.  

"Volvo will become the sole importer and distributor of the UD product," Downs says, adding: "Here in Australia, the changes will be limited as both brands are successful in their own rights"

The partnership, which is slated to continue for 20 years, will be overseen by a board with offices in both Sweden and Japan and filled with key members of both brands, including Volvo CEO Martin Lundstedt.

Downs goes on to address the issue of UD and Isuzu competing for the same slice of the Australian truck market in segments that are already highly competitive.

"There are currently no plans to change the UD product line up or strategy," she says.

"We believe we have the best premium Japanese product.

"Isuzu will remain a direct competitor, and in our minds it’s full steam ahead and there’s not much they can do."

Lauren Downs VP of UD on the Isuzu partnership

For the new Volvo models the FL, FM, FH and newly introduced crew-cab FM come with a host of safety features including adaptive high beam lighting, which senses an approaching vehicle and dims head lights on one side while retaining high beam on the offside, a blindspot camera activated by the left turn indicator, and adaptive radar cruise control which now works down to zero km/h from the previous low of 15km/h which Volvo says is advantageous in stop/start city conditions.

The adaptive cruise is also upgraded for greater connectivity with vehicle systems allowing better downhill retardation of the truck.

Volvo range extended with crew cab

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