Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where I live and work, is a medium-sized town – although it’s been experiencing major growth for the past decade. But, by any standard, it’s not a major market metropolis along the lines of, say, Memphis, Jackson, Birmingham or Little Rock.
Given that it’s a smaller city, there’s generally a considerable lag time between the point when production of a new Class 8 truck begins and the point where you start to see them on city streets and backroads in and around Tuscaloosa. It isn’t scientific – but in my experience (and yes – I’m the kind of automotive geek who watches for these sorts of things) it takes around 18 to 24 months before you see them in doing local or regional work in and around the city.
There are exceptions. When Caterpillar made its brief foray into truck production a decade ago, the first customer in the entire country was a fleet in Tuscaloosa. So there were Cat trucks on the streets of T-Town way before other cities — I still see them from time to time in town. I also noticed the latest generation of Freightliner’s highly aerodynamic Cascadia on the state highways in Northern Tuscaloosa County as early as last summer.
Now I can add the Mack Anthem to that list because, suddenly, I’m spotting them running through town. This is unusual. While there are a lot of Macks running the roads in Western Alabama, most of them are vocational dump and utility Granite models. There are some Pinnacles hauling timber out in the county but long haul Macks with sleepers are virtually unknown in and around Tuscaloosa. However, I've already seen a few in and around the city. On top of that, I spotted more than a few on my run to Atlanta for TMC and back a couple of weeks ago.
I mentioned these Anthem sightings, as well as my half-baked theories on when new trucks show up in my hometown to some friends at Mack while visiting their booth on the TMC show floor and got some knowing smiles in return. But while I’m working on supposition and a gut instinct, Mack actually has some hard data that confirms I’m on to something: their long-haul sleeper sales are up an astonishing 221% in 2018, compared to 2017, and overall retails sales for the brand were up 18%.
So, just looking at the data, it’s a given that Mack has a hit on their hands with the Anthem. It’s a bit harder to say now whether the truck will eventually find its way to “classic” status in the pantheon of great American big rigs, but it’s quite possible it will.
The Anthem is a definite departure in terms of styling, not only from what Mack has been doing in recent years, but other OEMs as well. It’s a bold, distinctive look that definitely stands out from the crowd. Even better, it’s an aerodynamic design that captures the essence of what Mack has been identified with in American culture for over a century now. In fact, say the words “Mack Truck” to someone outside of the trucking industry and it will likely conjure up an image in their minds very similar to the Anthem.
It’s a truck that stands separate from the pack. And that’s an essential first step for any vehicle on the long road to becoming a classic.
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