Mack is back – in the medium-duty truck market, that is. With typically modest fanfare, the OEM rolled out its new MD Series of Class 6 and 7 trucks during a Jan. 30 ceremony at its new Roanoke Valley Operations plant in Salem, Va.
Mack Trucks has planted its flag anew in the heavy end of medium-duty, having last offered a medium-duty truck (the Renault-based Freedom) back in 2002.
Now, nearly 20 years on, it has returned with two conventional-hood medium-heavies that draw their design cues from the OEM’s Class 8 stable. The new MD Series consists of two 4x2 configuration trucks: The Class 6 MD6 with a GVWR of 25,995 pounds and the Class 7 MD7 with a GVWR of 33,000 pounds.
The MD6 can be operated without a commercial driver’s license (except if hazardous materials are being hauled) and neither model is subject to Federal Excise Tax.
The key applications the MD is targeted for are dry van/reefer, stake/flatbed, dump, and tanker operations. During the event, a video detailed some of these applications, including last-mile delivery, a growing segment as e-commerce continues to boom.
Purpose-Built for Medium Duty
Mack executives at the rollout pointed out that while the development of the MD rested on the OEM’s foundational experience building Class 8 trucks, the MD Series is purpose-built for medium-duty applications.
Both models are powered by a Cummins B6.7L engine, rated 220 to 300 hp and 560 to 660 lb.-ft. of torque, driven through Allison 6-speed automatic transmissions, including one rated for PTO use. Also standard are Meritor front and rear axles and optionally available is Mack’s Maxlite cab air suspension.
The MD has a 103-inch-BBC dimension and will be offered in eight wheelbase lengths to support the upfitting of bodies ranging from 10 to 26 feet. A sharp wheel cut helps make the vehicle more maneuverable on crowded urban streets.
The cab rides on an all-new chassis that boasts a 120,000-psi rated steel frame with rails set at an industry-standard width of 34 inches.
Cab features aimed at drivers include reduced step-up height and short hood for better downward visibility. Inside, drivers are greeted by an ergonomic wraparound dash, tilt/telescopic steering column with a “flat-bottomed” wheel, and driver air-ride seat.
The cab is based on that of the over-the-road Class 8 Anthem. The boldly solid exterior design marks the new truck as unmistakably a Mack, even before one’s eye goes to the Bulldog bolted to the hood.
Both MD models are slated to go into full production in July; one Mack executive quipped that “orders are already being taken.”
A Mystery Solved
The big reveal brought to a close nearly a year of speculation on just what Mack was up to in Southwest Virginia, based on local reporting by The Morning Call. The Allentown, Pa., newspaper sniffed a story in the wind last February when it sighted some job listings posted by Volvo Group, Mack’s parent, seeking engineers for a project to be based in the Salem area.
The Bulldog clamped its lips shut until the rollout was literally underway, having even covered up the Mack name and logo outside the newly configured production plant in Salem. All told, according to the OEM, Mack has invested $13 million to establish its 280,000-square-foot Roanoke Valley Operations facility for producing the MD Series.
The site, nestled in the Southwestern Mountains outside of Roanoke, was chosen for several reasons, said James Chenier, senior vice president—strategy and business development. First off, Salem is only about a two-hour drive from Mack’s headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s also fairly close to Mack’s other manufacturing facilities in the Mid-Atlantic region and is situated so that it can take advantage of nearby Interstate 81 to allow “logistics flows to serve Mack’s existing industrial footprint.”
Gauging the Market
Why re-enter the medium-duty truck market in 2020? Jonathan Randall, senior vice president—North American sales and marketing, told reporters straight up: “Timing is everything. We’re re-entering a market in which we had a strong presence; we have a rich history in medium-duty.”
Pointing out that Mack already “covers the Class 8 spectrum,” he said “now we believe our family portrait is complete with [adding] Class 6 and 7 trucks. This makes [Mack] a single-source supplier for all our clients.”
Randall told HDT that the roots of the MD project stretch back about two years ago “when some engineers offered some ideas. From those first ideas, we developed what we introduced here today." He noted that when he joined Mack in 2016, dealers were already clamoring for a medium-duty model.
“When we revealed them at a dealer meeting last year,” he added, “[the trucks] were met with much appreciation.” He credited the investments made by Mack dealers in recent years with helping smooth the way for launching a new truck line as “dealers are looking for ways to expand given their investments.”
Going deeper, Randall explained, “medium-duty is a great market [to enter now] as it tends to be steady, running at 90,000 to 100,000 units each year for the U.S. and Canada, and is now showing signs of growth.”
Where might the MD go from here? While stressing that the company is focused right now on launching the new trucks, Randall said, “We’re always looking at advanced technology. We see electric [power] as [suitable for] delivery and other urban duty cycles with stop-and-go operations.”
Summing up, he said that with the MD, “Mack is coming to market with ‘name’ component suppliers and to meet customer demand for this truck. And it’s competitively priced.”