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Van Damme's 'epic split' eclipses Volvo layoffs
Jean-Claude Van Damme performs his 'epic split' between two volvo trucks. Screenshot: YouTube

Van Damme's 'epic split' eclipses Volvo layoffs

A YouTube video featuring Hollywood veteran Jean-Claude Van Damme performing an "epic split" between two moving Volvo trucks left news about nearly 500 job cuts at the Swedish truck maker in the dust.

Published: 15 Nov 2013 16:17 CET

The video, published on Thursday morning, had been viewed more than seven million times by Friday afternoon, much to the delight of the Swedish truck maker.
 
"We've been very pleased by the amazing response," Volvo Trucks spokesman Anders Vilhelmsson told The Local.
 
The clip, which runs just over a minute, shows the 53-year-old Van Damme suspended between two rolling trucks driving in reverse. As the camera pans out, the trucks slowly drift apart, leaving the actor perched in an "epic" split position (see clip below).
 
While admitting that the production included "some safety precautions that aren't visible in the final product", Vilhelmsson emphasized the authenticity of the clip.
 
"The stunt is real. The performance is real, and Mr. Van Damme performed it in one take," he said.
 
The video is meant to demonstrate Volvo Truck's Dynamic Steering, a new capability that enables the two trucks to maintain the exact same distance and speed while travelling in reverse.
 
Vilhelmsson explained that once the idea of having someone stand on the mirrors of the trucks and perform the splits emerged as a way to demonstrate the capabilities of Volvo's new Dynamic Steering, planners had no doubts about who they should ask to participate.
 
"If there was one person who could do what we were thinking, it was Jean-Claude Van Damme. It had to be him, as he is so famous for his splits," said Vilhelmsson.
 
The video's success as a bona fide internet sensation was confirmed on Friday when it shot to the top of Unruly's Viral Video Chart.
 
"Globally, it's the film that's engaging people most right now. It's beating all music videos, trailers, babies, and so on. It's extremely unusual for an advertisement to make it to the top of the list," Lance Traore, head of Unruly's Nordic operations, told Swedish advertising trade publication Resume.
 
While the internet is still abuzz over the eye-popping feat, Volvo's viral video success was little solace for hundreds of Volvo workers who learned on Thursday their jobs were being eliminated at the end of the year.
 
In northern Sweden, 380 temporary workers will be let go from a Volvo plant in Umeå, while roughly 100 other jobs are set to disappear from Volvo Powertrain in Skövde.
 
"This is an adjustment to market fluctuations and we're adjusting our capacity accordingly," plant manager Mona Edström-Frohm said in a statement.
 
Volvo Trucks has previously said that another 500 jobs will be eliminated in 2015 when assembly operations disappear from the Umeå plant.
 
In Skövde, reduced customer demand means that roughly 100 of 400 temporary workers hired by Volvo Powertrain will leave after the turn of the year.
 
From 2014, new emissions rules come into effect that require cleaner motors, something that has made potential buyers more careful before making new truck purchases.
 
When asked whether the release of the Van Damme video was timed to coincide with news of the layoffs, Vilhelmsson was adamant there was "no connection" between the two.
 
"The release of these films aren't at all directly related to the organization of our manufacturing," he told The Local.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)


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