Four or five large truck builders, all European or North America-based but each with an Asian presence, will evolve in the global heavy truck business -- and all will be large producers of their own engines, Freightliner president Jim Hebe told delegates at the recent Heavy Duty Dialogue 2000 in Atlanta.
"There are probably one or two major moves left to be made in North America and Europe," he said, adding that major global expansions by DaimlerChrysler, Paccar and Navistar will focus on Korea, India and China. American makers will also become more active in Brazil and Argentina.
But he said heavy trucks designs will remain regionally driven. "Global product platforms and global cab programs do not and will not offer the tremendous cost synergies dreamed of that are sufficient to compensate for customer compromise," Hebe said. "Globally, the tractor business is the growth segment, not full trucks and vocational markets."
To support dealers, every major global heavy duty player must develop a complete medium duty/heavy duty product line, and they will have proprietary medium duty powertrains, he said. "That means acquisitions or alliances...or massive product development. This is especially difficult because it means development of both cabovers and conventionals to fulfill regional (medium duty) market requirements." Light commercial trucks, he said, will benefit from global growth in e-commerce, as small delivery trucks "grow prolifically. This may well become the segment where electronic sales and marketing make successful debuts in the commercial vehicle business."
The decades-old issue of the North American concept of customer-spec'd heavy trucks vs. the European approach of truck manufacturer specs came up for discussion frequently during the dialogue. FleetPride President and CEO John Greisch said with the European model, "Customers are not getting the value they should. All things to all people doesn't work in this market."
Dana Corp. Heavy Truck Group President Rick Clayton did not believe one market was going to take over the other, but he challenged the vertically integrated OEs to develop new technology as fast and effectively as suppliers can.
Hebe said it shouldn't matter to the customer who supplies the component if it suits his needs best and "the world will wind up, in the near term, in a hybrid environment." He said the four or five global truck producers will have engine production capabilities equal to Cummins, Caterpillar or Detroit Diesel, and that they and other component suppliers "will be put under tremendous cost, price and technological pressure to compete with proprietary technology."
Harry Howard, Volvo Trucks North America executive director, marketing and sales, said vertical integration "will take place through partnerships with suppliers. If the truck is sold on cost per mile, the user doesn't care who makes it."
Too much time is being spent on today's business structure, analyzing global opportunities based on scale, synergy, common platforms and integration of businesses into one, said Hebe. Such things won't matter much "if another 'killer app' alliance, including information/communication technology, is formed that completely redefines how we compete," he said, "and don't ever thank that won't happen. It will."