Ferrari GT race cars and Mack Anthem tractors don’t seem to have much in common. But both are finely tuned machines, designed and built to perform specific tasks. And, they’re both real lookers, exuding a style and demeanor all their own.
So when tech entrepreneur Rich Baek was looking around for a new pair of trucks to haul his Vital Speed Ferrari racing team to events around the county, he listened when one of his drivers told him he thought Mack Anthems were the way to go.
Mack commands a strong presence in the Class 8 market east of the Mississippi. Traditionally the truck-maker has been exceptionally strong in construction, dump, and vocational markets. But its new Anthem has driven a considerable uptick in Mack sleeper-cab sales since its introduction in 2017.
But Mack has traditionally had more modest sales on the West Coast for a variety of reasons, including a strong physical presence by competitors based in Oregon and Washington state.
Initially, Baek was inclined to go with a more traditional West Coast brand when it was time to expand the logistics capacity for his racing team. But after one of his drivers stopped in at an Open House/Test Drive event at TEC Equipment, Mack’s premier West Coast dealer, he told his boss the Anthem was the way to go. And after just one look, Baek was onboard with the idea.
“These are Mack trucks,” he said. “They’re tough. But they’re also comfortable and powerful. And they just look so cool! I love them!”
Looking to raise its West Coast profile a bit, Mack hosted a Portland and Seattle press visit the week of July 8 that included visits to the Vital Speed race team’s time trials at the Portland International Raceway, as well as to Silver Streak Trucking in Maple Valley, Washington, a longtime Mack customer that runs Granite dump trucks in quarry applications in and around Seattle.
Truck Order Cancellations Still Low
Mack also used the visit to announce some news, notably a new milestone the company has reached in its connected truck initiative by building its 100,000th truck equipped with its Mack GuardDog Connect integrated telematics solution.
GuardDog Connect, launched in 2014, is a proactive diagnostic and repair planning solution that monitors critical fault codes that could lead to unplanned downtime, and is also the enabling technology for Mack Over The Air remote software and parameter updates.
“From its launch with truck number one to now reaching 100,000 trucks, Mack GuardDog Connect has proven itself to be an incredible tool to protect and maximize our customers’ uptime,” said Jonathan Randall, Mack Trucks senior vice president, North American sales and marketing. “We’re proud to have reached this milestone and look forward to continuing to build on our uptime leadership with GuardDog Connect.”
Randall also took time to report on the state of the North American Class 8 market from Mack’s perspective as the last half of 2019 commences. Randall said while there is a sense of unease about the economy at the moment, fewer than 1% of Mack customers have cancelled orders to date.
“There’s a sense that some people are trying to talk themselves into a downturn,” Randall said. “But we’re just not seeing it. We’ve had very few order cancellations. And our production orders are more than enough to keep us busy for the remainder of the year building trucks.”
Randall is generally upbeat concerning the remainder of 2019, predicting that the industry will meet — or even slightly exceed — initial production estimates of 310,000 Class 8 units this year.
Building on a banner year, Randall added that Mack is up in terms of market share in all the segments it participates in, save one. “Our numbers are a bit down in the cabover market,” he conceded. “But we fully expect to regain that ground and make some gains before year’s end.”
Randall also said he expects to see strong over-the-highway segment growth this year, and expects that Anthem will do its part in increasing Mack’s presence in that segment. “We need to have a good long-haul presence to validate the money we’ve spent on GHG [greenhouse gas] reduction technology,” he said, adding that overall, Mack and Volvo are investing $1.6 billion in their combined North American products, services and dealerships.
Growing on the West Coast
Part of that has been a concerted effort on the part of TEC Equipment to increase its presence on the West Coast and into Arizona, with an emphasis on covering the entire, vital, I-5 corridor that runs from the Mexican border in California, up to Washington state and Canada.
Due to its mountainous terrain, Randall said that West Coast truck fleets have traditionally spec’d big-bore/high-horsepower engines for their trucks, whereas Mack has gone with smaller displacement engines working in highly integrated powertrains. “Every region in the U.S. has particular preferences,” he explained. “In the West, big-block engines are popular. So we have to convince customers to make a switch from a 15L engine to a 13L. But we believe our 13L engine has the ability to pull any terrain in this country with significant weight and fuel economy advantages.”
Silver Streak Trucking is already sold on the concept, said Kevin McCann, vice president of maintenance for the fleet. “The West is all about horsepower,” he said. “We need to be as efficient as possible. One bucket in the truck. Pull up. One bucket in the trailer. We are a go-go-go kind of operation.”
McCann said his 13L Macks weren’t having any problems keeping up with, or even outperforming, his competitors’ trucks with big-bore engines. “We come out of the same gravel pits as guys running 600 hp. We can pull as well with a 350 hp MackTrucks engine. But the MDrive [automatic manual transmission] is the enabler of that capability.”
“Our Mack Granite model is No. 1 in conventional straight truck sales over 10L,” added Roy Horton, director of product strategy for Mack Trucks. “The vocational market is not a cookie-cutter kind of spec. There are many different applications with many different needs. The Granite comes in both axle-back and axle-forward configurations and comes with an optional 9L engine for Baby 8 or even medium-duty applications. The trucks continue Mack’s driver-focused design for safe and distraction-free operation.”