DENMARK: When global brands Volvo CE and the LEGO Group team up, the outcome is sure to be awesome. Not only is the new L350F wheel loader LEGO®Technic’s star model of 2014, it is also likely to become a best seller for both brands
by Brian O’Sullivan
The Nuremberg Toy Fair in February saw global toy giant the LEGO Group unveil its latest flagship model from LEGO®Technic. With 1,600 individual pieces and the largest individual element ever created for the brand, the Volvo L350F wheel loader is not simply one of the company’s 2014 star performers – it is just as impressive as the real-life machine it is based upon. The remote-controlled wheel loader – which can be reconfigured into an equally impressive A25F articulated hauler – can lift more than 1kg in its bucket and drive over challenging terrain, just like the real thing. The first model will roll out of the factory in Billund, Denmark, in August. “The L350F is the pinnacle of the Technic range,” says Niels Henrik Horsted, head of marketing for LEGO®Technic.
LEGO®Technic is a 35-year-old sub-brand of the LEGO Group with a mission to create authentic vehicles that are both functional and challenging to build. They must also be fun and robust playthings. The brand’s longevity is good for business, as children grow up loving it and handing down that endearment to their own children. Aimed largely at boys aged between 9 and 13, these robust and intricate models also attract an adult fan base, with a loyal following among those who appreciate the ingenuity of these complex models.
However, even successful brands need to constantly develop, so it was only logical that Volvo Construction Equipment and the toy company would team up at some point. In fact, they go back a long way. Having been involved in a proposed joint undertaking a decade ago, Volvo CE’s global director of brand management Mats Bredborg was also instrumental in making the L350F project a reality in 2014. “We wanted to cooperate with a premium toy manufacturer, just as we are a premium player in the construction equipment sector,” he says. “Volvo CE and the LEGO Group together create a perfect match, both culturally and in what we try to achieve in our products.”
“We looked very closely at the real machines, taking time out to visit a construction site and operate them ourselves,” says design manager Jeppe Juul Jensen, who has the enviable job of leading the team designing these mini marvels. “We tried to make it as realistic as possible, so that it drives, steers and lifts the load just like the real thing. You can also remove the filters, the radiator swings out, pistons move and the engine is painted green … just like the real thing. The bucket is the largest element we’ve ever had in Technic – we worked really hard to get the proportions just right.”
Designing the L350F was time consuming, resulting in eight months’ work for Uwe Wabra, the designer behind the model. “These machines cannot be designed by computer.” says Jeppe Juul Jensen. “They must be created by hand, by people who love the brand and are passionate about getting it just right. We ‘sketch’ things out in two dimensions using bricks to start with, and then develop a prototype through trial and error. Getting it right is as much art as science – the combinations of elements are endless, so each prototype is built and rebuilt again and again until we get it absolutely perfect. That’s not to say we don’t have fun – the more enjoyment and play we have the better the end results.”
It is clear that the end result has won the approval of both Volvo CE and the LEGO Group. “We are extremely happy with the outcome, both from a functional and a design point of view,” enthuses Mats Bredborg. “LEGO®Technic has captured the profile, expression and power of the machines in an incredible way, as well as including lots of cool features like a heavy lift boom and high dump height. The LEGO Group also shares our core value of safety, and these machines have been thoroughly tested.”
“The cooperation and mutual understanding with Volvo has been great,” Jeppe Juul Jensen agrees. “Our companies’ cultures are similar, and the relationship was easy and enthusiastic. The Volvo team readily offered helpful suggestions and gave us greater insight into how the real machines are built and operated. Both parties are perfectionists who are keen to get it exactly right. It’s been an enjoyable and positive experience.”
Enthusiastic feedback from focus groups indicates that LEGO®Technic is on to a winner with its new star machine. “Over the last 35 years, our reputation has been built on yellow and black machines – and the Volvo L350F carries on that tradition in style, pushing the boundaries of creativity and functionality even further,” Niels Henrik Horsted concludes.
“Not only will the L350F/A25F be our star machine for 2014 – it may even be our best seller ever.”
Click here to watch a video showing the models in action.