Two years after Navistar became part of the Traton stable of global truck brands, Navistar executives say the brand is back on the offensive. We talked to Göran Nyberg on where the company stands with electrification, autonomous technology, the integration of the two companies, and more.
Nyberg became well acquainted with the North American truck market after heading up Volvo Trucks North America for more than five years. In 2018, he left to take a position with MAN Truck & Bus. Late last year, he moved from MAN, owned by Traton, to take over at Navistar, which was acquired by Traton a little more than a year previously, as executive vice president, commercial operations.
Nyberg was front and center in Las Vegas this summer for the launch of the International S13 integrated powertrain, but we didn’t have a chance to sit down for an interview until the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition in San Diego last month. Even then, it was short and sweet.
HDT: It’s been a few years since you last headed up a truck OE here in North America. What are a few things you see that have changed about the market since then?
Nyberg: Of course, coming back to the U.S. in the middle of COVID was extraordinary circumstances. I don’t know the market has changed so much; the big fleets are getting slightly bigger, you’re seeing some consolidation, [but] is that permanent or part of the business cycle? Personally, I think with increased complexity and the cost of new technology, there might be a movement toward larger fleets.
HDT: Speaking of COVID, we’ve all heard about how it scrambled supply chains. Are things looking any better as far as being able to get truck parts?
Nyberg: The last two months, it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a few steps forward. Still, it’s daily, weekly attention to the supply chain. It ain’t over yet.
HDT: There’s been a lot of discussion about other paths to reduce carbon emissions other than battery-electric trucks, including renewable natural gas and even hydrogen in internal combustion engines. Will the new S13 engine platform be something that we could see eventually run on alternative fuels?
Nyberg: From a [Traton] group perspective, we are looking into all the technologies you named. And not to forget diesel. Even with zero-emission sales at 50% by 2030, personally I believe the future will be a palette of solutions. We have started with [electrifying] our school buses… on our eMV medium-duty, we now have an e-PTO [under development], which offers up a wider range [of applications]. Thirdly, we will go into the Class 8 with the RH [regional haul] day cab. But delivering the cleanest diesel powertrain in the industry helps us in sustainability, as well.
If you look at well-to-wheel emissions, you can debate what is the cleanest solution. I think that is still to come, and we should be honest to ourselves when we talk about measurements. What you measure you work with, I think we will refine the measurements and definition of measurements over time. I think we all want to save the next generations to come and save the planet.
With the Class 8 RH electric, we can control the environment of vehicles going to the home base at night [for charging]. Long haul, [electrification] will for sure come in the future, but I don’t see it for the next few years. There is also an interesting debate on hydrogen.
HDT: There are quite a few displays on the show floor of autonomous technology. Any updates on how the project with TuSimple is going, from Navistar’s perspective?
Nyberg: We have had a good partnership with TuSimple, but it’s not an exclusive, and we are working on autonomous solutions in the group. I would say overall we are quite well prepared in the journey toward autonomous vehicles. We are running extensive testing in Europe as well as in America. That’s the benefit of scale.
HDT: It’s been a little over two years since Traton bought Navistar. How is that integration going?
Nyberg: We are in the left lane going at high speed trying to take care of all the future investments. [Or as Diane Hames, vice president (CMO), marketing, interjected, “The market moves quickly, so we need to move quickly.”]
We have new management, new products, new demand for investments; I think the company is entering into a new environment that is very forward-looking and we are building to the future. It’s very exciting.
I think everyone knows that the company is now on stable ground… it gives us the horsepower to catch up in areas where we might have been behind, and the confidence factor is absolutely critical. The confidence factor also internally is on a very high level. We as a company have become a more attractive employer as well because everyone wants to join a winning team.
[Or as Hames put it, “We’re on the offense again.”]