Volvo has released a new stunt video featuring Belgian martial arts actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, demonstrating the precision and directional stability of Volvo Dynamic Steering. Van Damme is shown performing his famous split between two reversing Volvo trucks in a two minute commercial filmed in Spain, on a closed off landing field at sunrise. The stunt has drawn more than ten million views on YouTube since the video was posted on Nov. 13.
Filming was shot on a closed-off airstrip in Spain called Ciudad Real, located just south of Madrid. Van Damme, 53, was hooked to safety lines that aren’t visible in the film, and each foot is on a small platform that was built on the trucks’ side mirrors. Prior to filming, the production team rehearsed the stunt for three days. The final version had to be completed within just 15 minutes – from 8:05 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. – when the sunlight was just right.
Anders Vilhelmsson, public relations manager for the Volvo Trucks brand, explains that the trucks go backward in the video because going in reverse is a bit more difficult than going forward. “We felt that would be the ultimate test, to have the trucks go in reverse with someone standing on the side mirrors performing a side split. And we knew that if anyone would be able to do that, it would have to be Jean-Claude Van Damme.”
Film director Andreas Nilsson calls the video an honest homage to Van Damme, “a pop cultural icon that I have had in my life since I was a kid. The spots he has been in before have looked down on him, in my opinion. I was looking up, in celebration.”
The new dynamic steering system combines conventional hydraulic powered steering with an electric motor that is fitted to the truck’s steering gear. The electric motor receives 2000 signals per second from the truck’s on-board sensors, allowing for more precise steering, according to Vilhelmsson. He said the steering system offers a more relaxed and ergonomically designed experience for truck drivers.
The “Epic Split” video is the sixth of a series produced by Volvo Trucks that features daring stunts meant to illustrate innovations in its vehicles. When Volvo began planning the launch of five new trucks 12 months ago, the creative team adopted a strategy of producing YouTube films that would create attention, and inform and entertain audiences, Vilhelmsson said. That would pave the way for future advertising and sales campaigns in local markets. The first in the series, “The Ballerina Stunt” filmed two trucks speeding toward a tunnel, with a woman crossing a slack line between them before they hit the tunnel. That video also went viral, getting more than 7 million views.
With the Van Damme video, Volvo wanted to illustrate the new dynamic steering model in a spectacular way, and reach beyond traditional markets. “We need to target not only truck drivers, but future truck drivers. Young people who are facing a choice of a future career,” he said. “We know the media landscape is changing,” he said. “We have different media consumption habits today than a couple years ago. So that is why we invest in this cost-efficient way of reaching out to millions of people online.”
The Epic Split ad was developed at Forsman & Bodenfors by art directors Anders Eklind and Sophia Lindholm, copywriters Björn Engström and Martin Ringqvist, agency producer Alexander Blidner, account team Olle Victorin, Cilla Pegelow and Britta Malmberg.
Post production was done at Swiss, Stockholm.
Music is “Only Time” by Enya.