As the battle for North American Class 6-8 market share continues, Daimler Trucks North America’s CEO Martin Daum said the company is well-positioned to maintain its market share lead, currently at 40.9 percent year-to-date through August.
“We will make 40-plus percent the new normal,” said Daum at a press briefing during the 2016 American Trucking Associations Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas.
Daum’s confidence stems from the recent launch of the 2018 Freightliner Cascadia, which he said exceeded even his expectations, as well as a greater emphasis on service enhancements and connectivity features.
“In our industry you can announce something as a new truck when in fact it is just a facelift,” said Daum. “With the new Cascadia, from the electronics to the cab itself, it really is a new truck and it showcases our commitment to the North American market. It is in our DNA to see how far we can push the envelope with what is possible.”
Although DTNA believes it will continue its firm grasp on the truck OEM market, Daum cautioned that 2016 will be a down year for truck sales industry-wide and 2017 may be slightly below this year’s numbers. DTNA’s industry forecast in the Unites States Class 8 market is 184,000 units in 2016, a 26 percent decrease from the 249,000 units sold in 2015. He said 2017 will likely get off to an even slower start. “We think that by mid-year  speed will pick up again, but not by enough to compensate for the first half of the year. We see slightly lower levels next year with a positive outlook in 2018.”
Focus on service
Service has always been an important consideration in tractor purchasing, but the topic has taken a competitive focus in recent years with OEM-led dealership maintenance improvement practices like Kenworth’s TruckTech+, Peterbilt’s SmartLINQ and Mack and Volvo’s Certified Uptime programs. DTNA and Freightliner’s Express Assessment program and Elite Support certified dealer network is no exception, but Daum says the program has opportunities for improvement.
In 2014, DTNA set a goal that 85 percent of trucks entering dealerships for repairs would be turned around within 72 hours. Starting at 65.4 percent in 2014, the program is currently at 71.4 percent and Daum expects it to be at 75 percent by yearend.
“The goal of 85 percent will take renewed focus and commitment,” said Daum. “You don’t meet that by writing it into service agreements, it takes improvements throughout the process.” Currently, DTNA’s Elite Support network includes 218 dealers with 90 currently undergoing the certification process.
DTNA is expanding its parts distribution center network, having recently added Dallas as its seventh PDC location in the United States. “We have to be closer to our customers in the areas that we need,” said Daum. He expects to open two more PDCs in the future.
Connectivity: The new frontier
Daum said that while autonomous and electric vehicle trends are important topics to follow, they are still far from becoming a reality. Connectivity, meanwhile, is here today, he says.
“Information will transform the way we serve our customers and how we do business,” said Daum. “Connectivity impacts everyone’s business, from the OEM to the dealer and customer and even the customer’s customer.”
DTNA and its Detroit Diesel subsidiary announced a new alignment with AT&T and Microsoft to deliver enhanced connectivity services to the new 2018 model-year Freightliner Cascadia. AT&T will provide Internet of Things connectivity for the new Detroit Connect Truck Data Center platform that will allow over-the-air update capabilities for engine programming and powertrain electronic firmware for customers, as well as the ability to integrate third-party telematics applications. Microsoft will support all Detroit Connect services with the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
Advanced analytics will also enable DTNA to gather more valuable insight on how customers use Freightliner trucks for future product development and engineering. “That is a story you will hear from us in the future,” said Daum.
Meeting GHG 2 head-on
The recently announced Phase 2 for greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards represent a “huge step forward,” said Daum, but added DTNA welcomes Phase 2 criteria because it provides the trucking industry with flexibility on how to achieve those targets.
“It is great how the industry and regulators came together to develop a tough but manageable compromise,” said Daum. “GHG2 is still about tweaking existing technologies and improving what is out there now. We have to have the flexibility on how to achieve those targets so we can align with customer real cost of ownership.”