Governor Terry McAuliffe showed near adolescent excitement as he climbed into the driver’s seat of one of Volvo’s trucks to test out their new customer experience track on Tuesday. After a near 65 mph run around the track, he hopped back onto the pavement with a firsthand sense of the product being made at the 1.6 million-square-foot facility in Dublin.
“It’s silent inside, and it just floats,” McAuliffe said of the truck he drove.
The governor visited Dublin’s Volvo Trucks North America Plant, along with other state officials such as Congressman Morgan Griffith and Delegates Nick Rush and Joseph Yost, and other local government officials to commemorate a step forward for the plant. Tuesday’s ceremony unveiled the new track, as well as the largest push in sales for the company in years.
“Since we produce trucks here for the North American market, there’s more of a North American impact from this track, and I believe that will help us gain more market share,” said Lars Blomberg, Volvo Trucks’ Vice President and General Manager for the New River Valley Plant.
This news follows two other announcements from Volvo this year, as the company confirmed plans to invest $69 million in new equipment, as well as adding 200 new jobs to the Dublin plant. The plant currently employs 2,550 workers, a massive leap after the company had to cut 650 jobs in 2009.
The facility’s Customer Experience Track was built to give the company’s clients a chance to test out the vehicles made there. The 1.1-mile track features a paved road course, as well as an off-road area to showcase the Class 8 trucks made by Volvo.
According to Blomberg, the track is built to simulate real world driving conditions, including a variety of surfaces and grading to replicate different working environments. It has been designed with banked corners, which allows drivers to achieve highway speeds of up to 65 miles per hour.
The track has been named “Twin Oaks Track” after two large twin oak trees that stand in the center of the track.
To build the track, Volvo looked within to incorporated the skills of their own employees rather than bringing in outside contractors. Those skills included design, excavation, and operating heavy machinery to build and pave the track.
“Volvo is a big company with different companies within it,” Blomberg said. “We have trucks, but we also have construction equipment. We used the Volvo equipment to do this, so it’s not truck building, but something different.”
Blomberg added that customers are already lined up to try out the vehicles on the track, and an event will be held sometime in the next couple months to commemorate the Twin Oaks Track’s official opening. This is his last week working as the general manager for the Dublin facility, as Blomberg will move back to Sweden to take on another assignment with the company.
Taking his place will be Franky Marschand, who has experience in the industry as he previously worked for Mack Trucks. Overall, he said he feels like he’s stepping in at a good time.
“Right now, we’re only scratching the surface,” Marchand said. “My bet is that this track is gonna draw the customers in, and that will be very good for all of us.”
As for other plans on the horizon, Blomberg said the track still needs to be finished with a final coat of paving as well as preparing the off-road area.
Before the new track was unveiled, a ceremony was held inside the facility to commemorate the company’s shift forward with new plans. Production continued on in the behind the ceremony, as the sound of manufacturing created the backdrop for Tuesday’s announcements.
Volvo Trucks president Gӧran Nyberg challenged the company to best its own numbers from the past ten years, and sell 40,000 trucks over the next year. Governor McAuliffe reinforced that challenge.
“You sell those 40,000 trucks, and we’ll build those 40,000 trucks!” McAuliffe said, addressing the plant.
With those announcements, the officials at Volvo said they are poised to move forward to achieve higher production.