Now that I've been back from Louisville for a few days and have had a little time to digest the whirlwind of press conferences and the feast of displays,
Mack's new entry into the virtual integration race.
Mack's new entry into the virtual integration race.
I thought I'd use the next few days of this blog to comment on some key trends seen at the Mid-America Trucking Show last week.

First up? Vertical integration. It looks like this may be the wave of the future as truck makers look for ways to improve fuel economy as well as be more competitive globally.

Volvo touted its recent honors for its XE13 integrated powertrain from the Truck Writers of North America and Heavy Duty Trucking.

"Vertical integration will continue to be necessary to meet the needs of our stakeholders," said Ron Huibers, president of North American Sales & Marketing for Volvo Trucks. Volvo achieved a record 12.1% market share in the U.S. and Canada last year, 80% of those trucks with Volvo power and more than 40% with the Volvo I-Shift transmission.

Daimler introduced its new Detroit brand automated transmission, saying that with its recent introduction of Detroit brand axles, it's the only truck maker in North America with a fully integrated drivetrain that includes its own axle.

Not so fast, said the folks at Mack later that day. Integrated powertrains have been at the heart of Mack since its inception in 1900. Today, every truck with a Mack Pedigree Powertrain -- proprietary engine, transmission and axles -- features a gold Bulldog on the hood. And the new Mack Super Econodyne powertrain capitalizes on the Pedigree Powertrain expertise to provide customers with a 3.5% improvement in fuel economy.

But wait a minute, what about third-party transmissions from Eaton and Allison? The buzzword there is "virtual vertical integration," where the component makers are working closely with the OEs to make sure their transmissions are integrated as closely as possible with the OE's particular components.

When asked about this "virtual" vertical integration, Daimler Trucks head Andreas Renschler responded, "It's an approach you can follow, but you will never achieve the same kind of optimization."