Jecka Glasman succeeded Todd Bloom as president and CEO for Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America on July 1, although she's been prepping for the job since last fall. We caught up with her a few weeks after the announcement.
HDT: Congratulations on the new position. I'm sure you've been busy.
Glasman: It's been crazy for a while and it's even getting crazier. A lot of travel back and forth to Japan and a lot of travels here, because the best way to learn the business is from meeting the people and the dealers and the customers. You can learn only so much from PowerPoint and Excel.
HDT: What are some of the most interesting things you've learned?
Glasman: Something I've not seen as much in the previous industries I've been working on is the people here in MFTA and in the industry in general, how accepting and congenial they are. They're very open, they're very direct, they're very supportive. I find this to be very impressive and it's very exciting to work with.
HDT: You were at Comverse, a telecommunications company, for 12 years before joining Mitsubishi Fuso last year. How has that experience helped you understand today's medium-duty truck business?
Glasman: In any business, I think it's not specifically telecommunication or automotive, the key is understanding the customer needs, being able to generate value and build relationships. It doesn't matter if you're selling CRM systems, voice mail or trucks, you need to understand and improve the value of your solution to the customer. I'm not yet a truck market expert; I learn more every day. I think my expertise in building workflows, in building teams that focus on maximizing customer satisfaction, my experience in managing a worldwide support network… has provided me with valuable insight and real world insight into what it takes to keep customers happy and marshal the resources to be able to do that.
HDT: You have a degree in computer science as well as in business administration. What are your thoughts on the role of computers in today's trucks and fleets?
Glasman: That's a good question. I think trucks are simply a data gold mine. Anything from operation analyses and driver performance and telematics through predictive diagnostics or health checks or emergency calls, traffic, parking, freight and load location … there's so much data out there, that is mind blowing to think what else and what new can be done there.
I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg by the way. I believe this will create a new space with new partners … create completely new business models. I expect this domain to move very fast, the Class 8 segment is the driver more than the medium-duty, but definitely this is the future and this is where we are going.
HDT: Where do you think the primary areas are for data to be used in medium duty?
Glasman: I think looking into telematics, looking at vehicle data management systems, looking at driver behaviors and financial models that are driven by driver behavior, that would be probably the first steps.
HDT: How does the medium-duty business in the U.S. differ from other countries?
Glasman: It's a pretty early stage to ask me that question, but I will still try to answer. First of all the emission regulations which is pretty harsh here in the U.S., and that drives a lot of the product complexity here compared to developing countries. From a driver, a cultural standpoint, I think the U.S. is characterized by simplification is key. Most of our customers, like me, are not truckees. The truck is a tool, a necessary evil to run their business. They're not driven by professional drivers like what you see in higher classes, … [or] compared to Japan for instance where the drivers are wearing white gloves and check the oil every morning and know by heart the owner manuals of their trucks. Reliability and performance play a much more significant role in the U.S. compared to other places. They're less interested in [saving fuel] and more interested in general reliability and uptime in their trucks.
HDT: You were Business Development Director at MFTA before assuming the helm July 1. Can you tell us a little bit about what you did in that position?
Glasman: I joined the Daimler group in November last year, 2014, so that's eight months approximately that was part of my onboarding and getting to know the industry. I've spent most of my time traveling. I've been five times in Japan understanding the organization and the processes, and the tools and the people and the whole concept. I've spent time in India, where the new CEO of Daimler Trucks Asia, he established a complete greenfield organization that has currently captured the third position in the Indian market, so … looking at the processes, the procedures, how to build a new dealer network there. And I've spent a lot of time in the U.S. and Canada, meeting with dealers, meeting with field people, with customers, [learning] the business models, understanding the challenges, what needs to be done in order to drive this company forward.
HDT: What kind of goals do you have, short term and long term, in your new position?
Glasman: My primary focus is to continue and build the brand equity. For both Mitsubishi Fuso and for our dealer partners. We depend heavily on our network of more than 200 dealers across North America, and we need to makes sure they have the tools and knowledge to keep customers satisfied. This is one of my main concerns. We're focusing on product enhancement and improvement and also expansion of the line of services we're offering.
Longer term we are working very close with our parent company, Daimler Trucks Asia, and also some of the Daimler companies in North America to expand our product portfolio. That is definitely required to increase the franchise value.
HDT: What is your relationship with DTNA?
Glasman: We are in a way separate branches of Daimler trucks, but I think that I see a lot of synergies that can be generated, especially for us, having such a strong and well reputed sister company in the market. So we are exploring ways to leverage and improve our operation there. As it is today we are operating as two separate organizations.
HDT: Are there dealers that carry both DTNA and MFTA products?
Glasman: We have about 50 dealers that are both Freightliner and Mitsubishi Fuso dealers. Obviously it's a different truck, it's a different price position. There's a lot for us to learn from the way the Freightliner dealers are operating in terms of professionalism and processes, things like their Elite program.
About one-fourth, about 50, are stand-alone exclusive sealers. Multiple franchises are medium-duty trucks, like Isuzu, Hino and us. Some have Volvo dealerships, Fords. So it really varies.
HDT: What do you see as Mitsubishi Fuso's strengths and weaknesses here in the U.S.?
Glasman: I think the fact that we have a broad and strong dealer network is one of our strengths, and this is something we need to leverage on. In terms of weaknesses, I think our product portfolio is ripe for strengthening. We used to offer Class 6 and 7, which we stopped importing into North America several years ago, though we still market them elsewhere. And now I think there is room to expand our portfolio of products again here.
HDT: What are your thoughts on the increasingly global nature of the truck business?
Glasman: As in any business, working in a global business brings risk but also opportunity. You see the risk in Europe given the Greek instability, the financial crisis we've seen in Latin America, in Brazil, while at the same time we're seeing steady growth in India and North America. The low global energy prices are affecting buying and usage behavior.
The goal is to think globally but to act as local as possible. We still need to be close to the customers, to understand buying behavior and needs. At the same time, rolling out global platforms … can bring a lot of technological benefits to emerging markets and cost benefits to mature markets. I guess you will see both directions progressing jointly.
HDT: Your own background helps emphasize that global trend. You were born in Latvia, served in the Israeli defense force, and had a number of international job positions. You've been living in New Jersey for the last three years. How does it compare to what you've experienced in the rest of the world?
Glasman: I just love it, I have to tell you. It has been such a wonderful experience for myself and my family. I have three kids who have been well accepted and received, and you have an amazing, amazing country. I don't know to what extent the people who live here appreciate that, but living in other places I can definitely tell you … don't take it for granted.