Hyundai cabovers are hauling freight in Mexico today. WIll they come to the U.S. next? Photo: Sven-Erik Lindstrand

Hyundai cabovers are hauling freight in Mexico today. WIll they come to the U.S. next? Photo: Sven-Erik Lindstrand

I don’t get to the Mexican seaside nearly as often as I need to.* I was an Air Force brat – I went to middle school in Tokyo, of all places. Given that upbringing, I’ve been sort of programmed to view visits to foreign countries as an opportunity to learn. Although you never really know going in what you’ll discover once you’re there.

This was exactly the case a couple of weeks ago when I went to Mexico for a Daimler Trucks North America briefing on the state of the Mexican truck market. I learned a lot about the Mexican market, both this year and looking ahead into 2018. Which is important; Mexico is, after all, one of our most important trading partners.

The thing I learned that I wasn’t expecting, though, was the extent to which foreign truck OEMs are playing in the Mexican market today. The list of the companies Daimler has to compete against south of the border contains their usual competitors here at home, but it also includes a pretty impressive who's who of companies they currently do not have to tango with stateside, including Chinese OEMs Foton and FAW, South Korea-based Hyundai, and the co-owned European marques MAN, Scania, and Volkswagen.

The presence of those OEMs brings a different set of challenges to the game from an OEM perspective. And it’s one reason the Mexican trucking fleet looks so different from makes and models in the U.S. But to me, the interesting thing to consider is that for some (if not all) of these OEMs, it’s a good bet that playing in Mexico is the trucking equivalent of dipping your toe in the water if you want to play ball in the States one day.

On one hand, it’s not surprising to see the European OEMs on Mexican roads. All three have, at one time or the other, made it clear they intend to break into the U.S. market in one way or the other. Volkswagen owns both MAN and Scania. And while I doubt we’ll see those actual nameplates on trucks any time soon, some of their engine technology is already here, thanks to its deal with Navistar. And more is surely to come.

It’s a little more surprising to see Chinese models already on Mexico’s highways. But I’ve never doubted for a moment the Chinese are coming – although I always assumed they’d follow the same route as the Japanese, and concentrate on the medium-duty and van segments of the market.

The real surprise – for me, at least – was the presence of Class 8 Hyundai cabover tractors in the Mexican mix. There have been periodic rumors that Hyundai intends to enter the U.S. Class 8 market, although none lately.

We're already seeing indications that we'll have new nameplates in the U.S. Class 8 market. Hino, for instance, announced earlier this year that it plans to produce a new line of Class 7 and 8 trucks in the U.S. starting in 2019. Startups such as Tesla and Nikola are entering the market from the nontraditional technology side. Waymo reportedly is testing its self-driving tech on a Peterbilt.

At any rate, the Mexican market is an interesting mash-up of OEMs and – while there are no guarantees – it does give us a pretty good idea of what to look for in the near future as our own domestic market starts to undergo significant changes to meet new market forces and adopt new technology.

*This opening line really has nothing to do with this story. I’m just putting a subliminal message in my boss’s mind for next year.

Author

Jack Roberts
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

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As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

View Bio
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