Every visit to the Volvo Customer Center is a one-of-a-kind experience, and that's no different for Yellow.
It’s early morning in Dublin, Virginia. The sun’s first rays are shining through a three-story wall of windows. Warm spotlights shine down, illuminating the hood of a white VNL Daycab with the Yellow logo on the side. The truck will be a featured player in a day-long program at the Volvo Trucks Customer Center. A program designed exclusively for the visiting team from Yellow.
Rob Simpson, director of the Customer Experience Center, is working with his colleagues, overseeing the last details before guests arrive. “We call it the Volvo Trucks Customer Center. But on the day a particular customer is here, we might as well re-name the building after them, because it’s a day completely tailored to their needs.”
A big investment
The 36,000 square foot customer center opened in July 2017, immediately adjacent to Volvo Trucks’ production plant in the New River Valley. It remains the trucking industry’s first and only dedicated customer center in North America.
“When I took this job in 2010, I had a list of things I wanted to do. First on that list was the Customer Center,” says Magnus Koeck, vice president strategy, marketing, and brand management at Volvo Trucks. “We had many customers visiting for plant tours, but at the time there was no private track for test drives and no large, dedicated space to host them. We wanted to address that.”
The customer center features a product showroom, two exhibit rooms, two pilot review rooms, and a theater-in-the-round at the center of the building seating 290. Within the theater is a unique 82-foot rotating turntable which can accommodate a full tractor-trailer combination. An observation deck on the back of the building currently overlooks a 1.1 mile test track. That track will soon stretch further into the surrounding hills to cover more than three miles.
"We call it the Volvo Trucks Customer Center. But on the day a particular customer is here, we might as well re-name the building after them."
Director of the Customer Experience Center.
A typical day
The center debuted with packed crowds during the launch of the new VNR and VNL models a little over five years ago. Most days at the center look more like today however, with about two dozen individuals from the customer and Volvo Trucks teams gathered for focused, in-depth discussion and hands-on experience.
“The most powerful way to help customers understand who we are and why we do the things we do is to give them an opportunity to come here to Virginia and just be immersed in the Volvo Trucks brand,” says Simpson.
Today’s program with Yellow covers safety technology and sustainability.
“Safety is one of our core values, but it’s also a practice. It’s something we are committed to every day. It affects the equipment we buy and the training we provide,” according to Tamara Jalving, vice president of safety and recruitment at Yellow. “We are looking for a commitment to safety from our OEMs.”
Together the group discusses Volvo’s long-standing commitment to safety. In one of the rooms off the main theater, there’s a walkthrough covering the cab’s high-strength steel construction and performance in the Swedish Impact Test. After examining the demonstration cab, they head outside to experience safety technology in action.
“Volvo Dynamic Steering is a really good example of why the experience here is beneficial. To demonstrate how it works we take them out on the track and have them perform an uncomfortable safety maneuver,” says Simpson. “You can do PowerPoint presentations or videos about Dynamic Steering all day long. But its benefit becomes clear with just a few minutes behind the wheel.”
In a controlled environment, the Yellow team is instructed to take a VDS-equipped truck through a ditch in the course. It creates a surprising shake and jolt in the vehicle. Today Simpson is getting the same reactions he’s become accustomed to with the demonstration, “You’ll hear teams say things like ‘The steering didn’t move an inch during all that. I get it now; I understand how important this is.’”
" Safety is one of our core values, but it’s also a practice. It’s something we are committed to every day."
Vice President, Safety and Recruitment, Yellow
Volvo is known for constant innovation, but each new design or technology creates a different set of demands at the customer center. For instance, customer requests have doubled recently for content on sustainability efforts and battery-electric trucks. In response, a permanent electromobility showcase was just introduced in one wing.
It certainly is a topic of interest with Yellow. “The new electric VNR is amazing. It’s responsive, it’s quiet. It’s so easy to drive, anyone can do it. It was like driving a minivan,” exclaimed Yellow equipment manager Andrea Anderson, after her test run. “We all want a zero carbon footprint. Any decision we make on a single tractor could eventually be a part of our 4,000 tractors, and that could ultimately make a big impact.”
“As we look ahead, we are excited about both the expansion of the test track to a full three-mile loop and our ability to fully demonstrate our battery-electric vehicles,” Koeck reflects. “The center was designed to be a flexible space that could easily adapt to the changing needs of our customers.”
Test drives over and last questions answered, the Yellow team prepares to head home. It’s been a day filled with exactly that type of discovery and dialogue the center was designed to foster.
Simpson waves as the Yellow team departs. “Today is just a great example of why this is the best place in the world to talk about Volvo Trucks. Because every visit we talk about so much more than Volvo, we talk about what’s important to our customers and the society we all serve.”
"The center was designed to be a flexible space that could easily adapt to the changing needs of our customers. "
Vice President, Strategy, Marketing, and
Brand Management, Volvo Trucks
Volvo Customer Center:
Facility: Volvo Customer Center
Location: Dublin, Virginia
Opened: July 2017
Number of customers hosted: More than 700 since inception
Size: 36,000 sq. ft.
Test track: 1.1 miles long (expanding to 3 miles)
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