Safe but suped-up!
Volvo has toughened up its line of trucks with the addition of the brand new FMX series – built with the manufacturer’s traditional style and precision but designed as a serious quarry-workhorse.
Aside from upbeat yet paranoid mothers, not many would automatically link the words “safety” and “exciting”. At the recent Volvo FMX launch however, these terms seemed to magically make sense together.
The Volvo brand is well-known for being all about safety. In fact, the dash that goes across the Volvo logo is there to represent the fact that Volvo was the first company to introduce the three-point seatbelt in 1959. Since then, the company has made numerous advancements focusing on safety.
With its new range of FMX construction trucks, Volvo is ready to get dirty whilst getting the job done. With all of the tried and trusted safety of its predecessor FM truck-base, the FMX is a quarry specialist, having an entirely new front, tailored for the rough-and-tumble of construction operations.
A new automated gearbox (the I-shift) helps the driver to focus on the road and the prevailing traffic conditions, instead of on changing gears. This makes driving safer and simpler as the mechanisms of the gearbox are actually simpler than a manual and 90 kg lighter to boot. Volvo emphasises intelligent, rather than complicated, design. This smart but simple approach creates fewer mechanical problems and is good for fuel economy.
Other clever design functions include an auto-rocking function with foot pedal and gearbox software that can be changed according to the application. The vehicle is designed for use anywhere in the world but is adapted to have a higher cooling capacity specifically for hotter countries. “Information gained from the world over has been used to create the best product possible,” enthuses Malcolm Gush, truck product manager, area Southern Africa.
The Volvo Optimised Service Plan similarly utilises Volvo’s many years of experience and has indeed been “optimised” based on information painstakingly gathered from trucks in actual operation and is constantly being updated with new information. The aim of the service plan is to give owners the exact maintenance they need: walking the thin line between ensuring trouble-free driving and minimal service time. Hannes Benade, general manager, after-sales and retail development, area Southern Africa, adds, “the service plan costs nothing – apart from a little of your time.”
Optional service agreements are also available for tailor-made peace of mind, including a blue (preventive maintenance), silver (preventive plus driveline repairs) and gold option (preventive plus truck repairs). Benade goes on to highlight the 24-hour breakdown service Volvo offers in South Africa, just a toll-free number away. As well as the multitude of South African dealerships, Volvo has a footprint in Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, and will expand into Zambia in February next year, providing full sub-continental coverage.
Anders Linblad, president of Volvo, area Southern Africa, reported at the launch that Volvo had a good performance this year, coming back very strongly from the 2009 dip. Volvo Truck was the star performer of the impressive recovery, according to Linblad. Delivery of vehicles is up 50% from last year. In 2008, vehicle sales numbered 110 000, in 2009 this figure dropped dramatically to 40 000. However, this last year, numbers were back up to 80 000; “we’re getting there after the recession,” Linblad commented. South Africa has had a particularly good year as it was comparatively not too badly hit, thanks to stable banking. Recognising this economic resilience and catering to it (to the tune of R350 million in investments over the past four years!), Volvo’s local market share has increased 7% in the past two years. The manufacturer is continuing to invest in four new service and after-sales points; in Newcastle, Upington, East London and Aliwal North.
This latest offering from Volvo for its up-and-coming truck catalogue, the FMX, whilst brand new, is built on the old FM platform (with a 10-year proven track record). The FM skeleton has been used as a starting point, but made even tougher! Along with a 540-litre aluminium fuel tank for a six-cylinder 11-litre or 13-litre engine (246 to 373 kW), the buffing-up of the FMX includes new work-lights, specially developed, robust rear-view mirrors with sturdy mountings, and a higher air intake that simultaneously offers improved filter life and engine efficiency whilst providing better visibility when reversing. A reinforced bumper with integrated towing beam, skid-plate and footstep rounds off an impressive collection of safety features that can be put to the test.
Volvo’s focus on safety obviously extends to safety for any condition, including heavy loads, poor roads and tough inclines. It makes sense: the times we are most in need of complex safety features are when we are gallivanting off doing extreme-sports, not when we’re going for a walk in the park. All of the changes made to create the new FMX were made as a result of input from drivers and customers. The result is a highly practical new model that is Volvo-safe, but that has teeth.