Hebe "has hitched the No. 1 maker of heavy trucks to high technology," reads the article, written by WSJ Staff Reporter Jeffrey Ball and located on the front page of the Marketplace section. "A skilled salesman and risk taker, Mr. Hebe has led Freightliner to dominate the truck market's most lucrative and dependable sector, the big fleets that buy thousands of new vehicles every year."
Ball writes about Freightliner's continuing marriage to technology, from the increased fuel mileage in the new Century Class S/T to rollover warning systems to the scheduled rollout later this year of the "Truck PC."
He also writes about how both the company and the rest of the heavy truck industry are facing a slowdown in demand right now.
"For Freightliner, effects of the slump may be exacerbated by Mr. Hebe's pedal to the metal tactics," Ball writes. "Since he assumed the company's top job in 1992, the company's market share in Class 8 trucks has risen by more than half to about 35%. But in pushing Freightliner to the head of the pack, Mr. Hebe has helped flood the market with more trucks than it can absorb."
However, Ball writes, Hebe also has plans to do something with all those used trucks. Last month, Ball reports, Hebe told Freightliner dealers that the company plans to lease a former Army depot in Tooele, Utah, for use as a factory to refurbish used trucks that the company buys back from customers.
"We're caught with a declining market, and we're caught with a high number of used trucks coming back," Hebe tells Ball. "The important thing in all of this is you absolutely have to not panic. We're no fools. We understand this business and we know what we're doing."
Ball also delves into Hebe's personality. "The tough-talking son of a Pennsylvania truck driver, Mr. Hebe isn't the type to play golf," he writes. "Instead, he takes customers salmon fishing in Alaska and British Columbia."
The article talks about how Hebe drove trucks in high school and college, got his first full-time job selling fire engines (to this day, Hebe loves fire engines), and opened a truck dealership in Florida before rising through the ranks at first Paccar and then Freightliner, which he joined in 1989.
Ball says Hebe boasts that he still knows how to drive the trucks that come off the Freightliner assembly lines. "I'd put myself up against any of my competitive colleagues in driving trucks," Hebe tells Ball. "I'd like to see them go out and back a truck into a dock in downtown New York some day."