DTNA chief Roger Nielsen explains the new strategy to Freightliner and Western Star dealers at a...

DTNA chief Roger Nielsen explains the new strategy to Freightliner and Western Star dealers at a recent event.

Photo: Daimler Trucks North America

Daimler Trucks North America is switching things up for its customers and dealers by moving from a traditional brand-centric product strategy for its Freightliner and Western Star operations to a customer-centric business structure that is segment-based. The move, announced on March 2, “better positions DTNA to serve both the on-highway and vocational segments in which Freightliner and Western Star brands compete by aligning internal resources to segment-specific customer needs,” is how the OEM put it in a news release.

“We are organizing our business to bring equally strong focus to both our on-highway and vocational truck customers,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of DTNA. “Along with that, the best people, products, service and support have been combined to grow our two strong truck brands across both segments.

“This new strategy will ensure that we are delivering the best experience for customers, no matter the application or the industry.”

Accompanying the unveiling of the new market approach, DTNA announced new roles for the leaders of both Freightliner and Western Star.

Top Segment Executives

  • Richard Howard, Freightliner’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, now assumes responsibility for DTNA’s complete portfolio of on-highway trucks as senior vice president, On-highway sales and marketing.
  • David Carson, president of Western Star, will transition to the role of senior vice president, Vocational sales and marketing. In his new role, Carson assumes responsibility for the full portfolio of vocational trucks at DTNA.

The OEM said this alignment of focus with the two main truck-market segments is aimed at driving “a customer-focused mindset” while honoring the unique heritage and products of the distinct Freightliner and Western Star brands. 

“Together with our dealer network we will continue to prioritize our focus on customer needs including safety, fuel efficiency, and maximum uptime,” said Howard.  “Aligning around segments will let us improve the customer experience of both Freightliner and Western Star customers.” 

“Our new structure and focus on our customers’ specialized applications will benefit the vocational segment like no one else can,” said Carson. As to why now, he said that, “We’re successful, but we also truly understand there are differences between the customers in each [market] segment. This [new approach] lets us bring both brands to the customer” so they can get the best product match for their application.

In its press release and in remarks made on a briefing call with reporters, DTNA executives emphasized the key role of its dealers in implementing the new strategy. Stating that it fields the largest dealer network in North America, the company said it holds an “unrivaled position to provide significantly greater attention to customers in both the vocational and on-highway segments.” Both segments will continue to be supported by DTNA dealers and the OEM’s field staff. 

Roger Nielsen told reporters that DTNA had rolled the new strategy out to 500 of the company’s dealer principals at a special event held before the media call and that the new market-segment approach was well-received by them.

“Coming out of a great decade of ever-growing market demand, we took a look back and celebrated our successes,” Nielsen said on the call. “But what would do in the next 10 years? This [segment strategy] is really our ‘2020 vision,’ in more ways than one, for our two great brands, Western Star and Freightliner.

“The aim,” he added, “is to put equal support behind the brands” from the corporate side.”

Stefan Kurschner, senior vice president of aftermarket, said that the “Freightliner and Western Star teams know their customers and will continue to deliver the same exceptional service and support that both brands are known for.”  He said the difference now is that the company is “putting the collective resources of DTNA at the disposal of all its customers. “

“Our target is the 24-hour maximum turnaround and we are working to achieve that, whether our customers are running on-highway or off-pavement and whether they’re operating a Freightliner or a Western Star,” he added.

Related to the new segment strategy, other executive appointments made include: 

On-Highway Sales

  • Drew Backeberg will assume the newly created position of vice president, On-highway sales. He is an 18-year veteran of DTNA, holding roles of increasing responsibility in the sales organization throughout his tenure. In his new role, he will lead the dealer sales business for on-highway products, including the Freightliner Cascadia, Western Star 5700, and certain M2 applications such as pickup and delivery.
  • Brian Cota will continue to lead a national accounts team. As vice president of national accounts, Cota and his team will maintain current responsibilities while focusing on growth strategies for DTNA’s on-highway fleet business. Cota is a 26-year veteran of DTNA.

Vocational Sales

  • Peter Arrigoni has been promoted to the new position of vice president, Vocational sales, bringing an increased focus on growth in that segment. Arrigoni has been with DTNA since 2016 and is a 13-year veteran of the industry. Similar to the On-highway organization, Arrigoni’s new Vocational team will have a regional structure that includes three regions in the U.S. and a matrixed reporting structure for Canada. The Vocational field sales team is responsible for the entire DTNA vocational product line including the Western Star 4700, 4800, 4900 and 6900, and the Freightliner EconicSD, 108SD, 114SD, 122SD and the M2 for vocational applications.
  • Richard Saward will lead a Vocational national accounts team. As vice president, Vocational national accounts, he and his team will continue to support truck equipment manufacturers, while identifying growth opportunities for vocational fleet business. Saward is a 40-year veteran of DTNA, holding roles of increasing responsibility in the sales organization of DTNA and its affiliated brands throughout his tenure.

In addition, Kary Schaefer, general manager, marketing and product strategy, will lead the marketing and product strategy teams for both the On-highway and Vocational segments, covering Freightliner, Western Star, and Detroit products. She will concentrate on market development, platform product strategy, marketing intelligence, planning, reporting, and digital experience. Schaefer is a 21-year veteran of DTNA, holding increasing roles of responsibility throughout her tenure in engineering, product planning, and marketing.

During the Q&A portion of the call and in reply to a query by HDT as to whether the change in strategy factored in how aware fleet customers are of how vertically integrated multi-brand truck makers have become, Nielsen replied that, “When it comes to the buying behavior of fleets, loyalty to a certain brand or logo is not the deciding factor. [Rather] buyers are data-driven [toward knowing] the full lifecycle cost of the vehicle,” he continued. “[They want] the OEM that can provide the best answer to that. And to whether we can give them durability, reliability, and service.”

Nielsen added that this change in strategy by DTNA reflects that, “We are not a company to stand still.”

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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