NAPA, Calif. -- It has been a mediocre first half of the year for new truck orders, but a spectacular one for Freightliner relative to its competition.
Mark Lampert, senior vice-president of sales and marketing, today projected 2013 will end with Class 8 sales down 5-7% compared to last year, while Classes 6-7 demand will be up 7-8%. However, Freightliner thus far has been able to outperform the overall market and maintain steady production levels, Lampert noted.
Freightliner has seen its Class 8 market share surge to 39% year-to-date.
“What pleases us the most is, we are taking share from everyone,” Lampert said. He anticipated Freightliner will end 2013 with its highest ever market share, though it may not sustain its current pace.
“We will probably experience some decline from 39%, but it will be our best year ever,” Lampert said.
The company attributes its rising popularity to a strong product line, and increasing emphasis among customers on fuel economy.
“Customers want anything they can get to benefit fuel economy,” Lampert said. Truck owners who held onto tractors longer through the past few years and are running EPA07 generation engines can drive down maintenance costs and improve fuel economy significantly by moving into the latest Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, Lampert said.
“That value proposition is very attractive,” he said. “You’re getting (better) fuel economy and also lower maintenance costs.”
The Cascadia Evolution is making waves in the Class 8 market, with 15,000 orders placed in the past six months, representing half of the Cascadia’s current backlog. Lampert said customers are seeing 5% improvements in fuel economy compared to its predecessor.
Freightliner is also taking steps to bolster its Classes 6-7 business. Lampert said demand for these vehicles is more consistent, making it an easier marketplace to forecast. Freightliner holds about 40% of this segment, up substantially compared to recent years.
Much of this is because of the M2, which has received 14,049 orders so far this year. Lampert compared that to the total of 13,723 Classes 6-7 truck orders placed for all other models combined over this same time period.
Freightliner is also seeing success in the vocational market, where its share has climbed from 16% in 2008 to 33.8% year-to-date through March. This is the result of a renewed focus on the vocational market that began three years ago.
“We are seeing the benefits of the investments we made, and of that vocational strategy,” Lampert said. The company now works more closely with truck equipment manufacturers to simplify installation of various bodies onto Freightliner chassis. It also has urged dealers to assign vocational specialists who truly understand the business. Lampert also said vocational customers are focusing more on fuel economy than they have in the past, which plays into the brand’s favour.