Truck market worse than anticipated, but demand should return in 2018

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – It’s been a tougher year for new truck sales than Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) predicted, but he said Daimler is dulling the pain by growing its market share.

Daimler’s share of the Canadian Classes 6-8 market is 39.9% year to date through August, up 4.3% this year, Daum said during a trucking press roundtable at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition. The overall truck market, however, remains soft. Demand from Canada has shrunk 24%, worse than the overall North American market which is down 15% compared to last year.

Total NAFTA Classes 6-8 volumes are on pace to reach 360,000 units this year, down from 424,000 units last year and 384,000 in 2014.

“We were much more optimistic about 2016 12 months ago than we are today,” Daum admitted.

Class 8 truck demand in the US and Canada is on pace to reach 210,000 units. Daum said a further decline is expected early next year but that demand should pick up by mid-2017 and a brighter outlook will return in 2018.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Daum said, noting that by 2018 there’ll be a large population of four- and five-year-old trucks needing replacement. Daum said the new Freightliner Cascadia will provide the industry’s best fuel economy and provide the platform Daimler needs to maintain its approximate 40% market share.

But despite enjoying record market share, Daum wasn’t easy on himself when assessing the company’s performance over the past year. Several 2016 goals received yellow check marks because he wasn’t yet fully satisfied with how the company has done. One of these is customer service. Daum said Daimler has an internal target to get trucks back on the road within 72 hours and to provide the customer with an assessment within two hours of the truck arriving at the dealership. Progress towards this goal has been made; the company now gets 71% of repairs done within 72 hours – up from 65% a year ago. Daum said Daimler is on pace to hit 75% this year but he wants to see nearly 100% of repairs done within this timeframe.

This is being achieved through Freightliner’s Elite Support certification program, which sets higher performance standards for dealers. The company is also supporting this effort by opening new parts distribution centres to ensure parts are delivered quickly. The most recent to come online is in Dallas and more are scheduled to open soon.

Daum also gave DTNA a yellow check mark for “completing the integration puzzle.” He said adoption of the new Detroit DD5 engine has been slower than hoped, with 500 engines sold this year. Detroit has a production capacity of 18,000 engines but Daum said the market isn’t always eager to embrace a new player.

“Whoever wants to enter the North American market with a new engine should know it isn’t that easy,” he said, presumably a reference to Volkswagen’s plans to provide powertrains to Navistar.

Asked for further reaction to Daimler’s European rival’s impending arrival in the North American market, Daum said only “We take every single competitor seriously. This changes absolutely nothing. We never underestimate any competitor and we never overestimate any competitor.”

Daum was upbeat about the progress DTNA has made with connectivity, where he vowed to continue being a leader. “Connectivity is today,” he said. “Connectivity will have a direct impact on everyone’s business.”

He said Daimler’s work in regards to connectivity has exceeded his expectations.

As he always does during what has become an annual press roundtable, Daum laid out goals for the year ahead. These included: a seamless launch of the new Cascadia; the launch of “unexpected killer apps” to enhance connectivity; using service as a differentiator; building trust in the Detroit medium-duty engine; successfully managing the market cycle; and staying far ahead of the competition.

One of the immediate challenges will be to manage the second round of greenhouse gas regulations to be phased in between 2021 and 2027. Daum referred to the impending rules as “challenging but achievable,” adding the EPA and NHTSA provided the flexibility and time needed to boost fuel economy of its tractors by 25% and engines by 5%.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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