Four years ago, at a press event in Napa Valley, Calif., Freightliner declared it was going to get serious about the vocational truck market. The company said it wouldn’t rest until it is the “undisputed market leader” in the vocational segment. It had its sights set on Navistar, which at that time was the segment leader. Freightliner claimed to hold a respectable second position but it wasn’t happy with that.
So it first consulted with its dealer network to ensure its dealers were willing to pursue the segment as enthusiastically as the OEM itself. With them on-board, it revamped its product line, in 2011 bringing the SD family on-board, giving it a vehicle with which it could compete. But the biggest challenge, according to Richard Saward, g.m., vocational sales with Freightliner, was to step outside their comfort zone and start saying ‘Yes’ to some unorthodox builds they previously would have walked away from. As an example, see the picture to the right. Richard joked that five years ago if a customer had asked for a ‘twin-tri,’ he’d be “on wiki” trying to figure out what they meant. Now, accommodating these oddball configurations is becoming part of the brand’s DNA.
Freightliner updated trade journalists on its mission during this year’s sojourn to Napa Valley and company executives had a good story to tell. Yes, some pats on the back were in order, having for the first time accomplished their goal, taking the lead in all six sub-segments that comprise the vocational truck market: specialized hauling, utility, food and beverage, government, construction and refuse. This claim was made citing Polk data on new truck registrations in the US and Canada, through April 2014. It takes some courage to lay out an aggressive growth strategy at its outset, and then to provide annual updates thereafter. Of course, it’s easier to do so when the strategy has been well executed and successful.
Freightliner continues to broaden its vocational truck options, announcing several new ones at last week’s event. For a more detailed report on their growth in the vocational truck segment, go here.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies