How can Cummins and the industry keep up with the rapid pace of technological change in truck engine and propulsion? We asked José Samperio, Cummins’ new executive director and general manager for North American on-highway business, in a short interview during TMC's annual meeting.
Samperio succeeds Amy Boerger, who will retire at the end of March after 39 years with the company. He brings nearly 20 years of Cummins experience across engineering, service, strategy and sales.
He started with Cummins at the Jamestown Engine Plant, where he served as a product engineer. He spent time in China and Latin America, where he was general manager for Cummins’ Power Systems business. For the past two years he served as the executive director – sales for the On-Highway Business in North and South America.
HDT Equipment Editor Jim Park caught up with Samperio on the trade show floor at the ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, in early March.
The interview below has been edited for clarity and length.
HDT: With GHG 2027 and the push to maintain the pace of battery-electric truck development happening simultaneously, does this industry have the resources to manage all that?
Samperio: The industry has known for probably the past five to seven years that the next 10 years we will need more research investment than we have in the past 20 years. Literally.
I mean, look at all the new products Cummins is going to launch. For engineering companies and technology companies (we like to think ourselves a technology company), we see that as a good thing, because the more it gets challenging, the more we think we can compete well.
I think partnerships are the way of the future. You see this everywhere, now. Some can be like the one we have now with Meritor and some can be just a partnership, like the collaboration we announced publicly with DTNA on fuel cells. They have things they need to get done, we have things that we need to get done, we can do a lot together. I think you're going to see more of that — the industry trying to be more efficient in getting to the point where everybody wins. We're going to see more cooperation across all manufacturers, I think.
HDT: How do you think the startup companies will weather this two- or three-year transition where there’s no revenue but lots of engineering dollars being spent?
Samperio: I think it's going to be a challenge.
I think, for all of us incumbents that are seeing some of the disadvantages, the question we ask ourselves all the time is, “Can elephants dance?” We’re a big elephant. Moving something one way or another, by even one degree, feels monumental. But the startup companies can do things faster; they're nimble, they’re more agile.
But on our side, not only do we have the brand name, but we have the resources of an existing business, like continuous funding that can keep us going for the long term. I don't know how [startups are] going to do it.
From our side, and that of the other industry incumbents, we have our existing business to fund future development. We're going to be in this for the next 10-20 years. This candle is going to burn slowly. It’s going to be 20 years of continuous investment.
HDT: Now that you have Meritor on board, enabling a basically integrated powertrain and providing some battery-electric resources, how is that going to help Cummins move forward?
Samperio: The way we think about it is, how does this help our customer base? When you do the right things for your customers, your carriers, and your dealer channel, then good things happen.
Now that we have an integrated powertrain, the customers will benefit two ways. The first one is from an engineering integration perspective. You saw what we did with the Eaton-Cummins joint venture. That led to better and more efficient product development. With Meritor, we’ll be able to do the same thing. We can also extend adjacently with the investments they made in electric powertrains and inverters. All that allows Cummins to offer a better value proposition for the customer.
And also from a channel perspective of customer support and customer service, having a more integrated view how we do things rather than having to do a little bit here and a little bit there, now we're able to do it all together. It's going to take a while. It's going to be a process, a journey, but from a customer base perspective, I think it’s going to be a lot better.
HDT: How do you see the next five years unfolding? Do you have any predictions?
Samperio: There's going to be a lot of people retiring. A lot of people are going to say, ”That’s enough.” But I think a lot of us in the industry, and I count myself among them, are going to embrace these challenges. We're excited about launching new technology.
I think it will challenge us on how to balance the costs with the technology, but this industry will continue to innovate. We've proven over the past 20 years that we can innovate. We have a track record, but it’s not always obvious to people outside the industry. Once they stop and see what the trucks and the technology looked like 20 years ago and how they look today, it’s been an amazing 20-year run. I think the industry will continue to innovate. There'll be challenges, but the industry will figure it out.
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