Thursday, December 12, 2013

Volvo’s epic moment

Photos courtesy of Volvo Group
Surely, you’ve seen it by now: Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits while balancing on the mirrors of two Volvo trucks moving in reverse.

If you have, you’ve helped make it the most viewed automotive-related commercial in YouTube history with nearly 60 million views since its introduction Nov. 14.

If you haven’t seen it, clear a minute of your schedule, click here, and take care of that immediately.

The commercial dubbed “The Epic Split” is certainly one of the most talked about commercials we’ve heard of in recent history. It has drawn more than 6 million shares on social networking sites and has received 10 million search impressions according to Google.

Photos courtesy of Volvo Group

Moreover, it has been the subject of more than 20,000 editorials by the media around the globe. Some of the early reports called it a fake, like some kind of camera trick.

And while those too-good-to-be-true videos exist out there in numbers, Volvo speaks adamantly of its authenticity.

Van Damme, the 53-year-old action star of “Bloodsport” and “Universal Soldier” was the real deal in this commercial, requiring only one take to complete the stunt. And that is remarkable by anyone’s standards. Watch it again, and picture Van Damme climbing up into position and knocking that whole thing out of the park in one camera shot.

Yes, he had some additional foot support added to the truck mirrors along with some safety wires that were made invisible during post-production of the commercial, but “The Epic Split” was indeed that.

Just as remarkable, to us anyway, is the spectacular display of truck driving exhibited by the Volvo drivers, Jens Karlsson and Mikael Rosell.

Even with Volvo Dynamic Steering systems on board, those new Euro-styled Volvo FM trucks were not driving themselves. Kudos to those driving professionals.

Just a week after the commercial made its debut, I was in Washington, D.C., to attend a transportation summit hosted by Volvo Group and the American Highway Users Alliance.

The commercial dominated the dinner conversation as the trucking press met with Volvo Trucks North America Media Relations Manager Brandon Borgna. He said he was just as surprised and moved by the commercial as we all were.

The whole thing was done on a closed set in Sweden.

Brandon said during that first week, he fielded a tremendous number of questions and requests for information from North American media. The first day drew 6.5 million YouTube hits, so it’s not hard to see why.

Even Volvo Group President and CEO Olof Persson declared “I will not be doing the splits” during his remarks at the transportation summit.

No matter how you look at it, or how many times you look at it, “The Epic Split” is worthy of the hype. It’s just that cool. And try getting that Enya song out of your head after a few views.

Incidentally, this is not Volvo’s first rodeo involving trucks and epic feats. Persson showed a video during the transportation summit in D.C., which depicted “driverless” vehicles that used technology to navigate and steer. The video got a reaction from the 160 in attendance because the people behind the wheel were reading newspapers and using tablet computers instead of watching the road.

Volvo has also produced the world’s fastest hybrid semi truck. The aptly named “Green Machine” topped 147 mph during a “flying kilometer” in Utah recently, and reached 95 mph at two-thirds of a mile from a standing start. We got to see the “Green Machine” and meet owner-driver Boije Ovebrink during the 2012 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

They’re not done yet, by a long shot. Our source at Volvo Trucks North America told us that Volvo is in production of some top secret videos to share in the future.

We’re probably not alone in wondering how the company could possibly top “The Epic Split.”