ALLENTOWN, Pa. –Mack Trucks enthusiasts will have to add an item to their bucket lists: visiting the brand new Mack Customer Center.
The center was opened to dealers, customers, suppliers and media during the company’s World Sales Conference in late October. It’s a 159,000 sq.-ft. facility designed to “enhance the sales and ownership experience of the Mack customer,” said Kevin Flaherty, Mack’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing. The facility sits on 54 scenic acres just a short drive from Macungie, Pa., where all Mack trucks are presently built. It houses a museum and heritage center (which opened to the public Nov. 1) and an aptly named Bulldog Cafe lounge. The complex is also home to a product showroom, an 18,000 sq.-ft. modification centre, a two-lane oval test track as well as steep grades, an off-road course and a skid pad so customers can put Mack trucks through their paces.
“The Mack Customer Center is an important new tool for the company,” said Mike Reardon, Mack’s vice-president of marketing. “It gives us a powerful way to immerse customers from North America and around the world in the products, history and culture of the Mack brand.”
In an interview with Truck West, Mack CEO Denny Slagle commented on the timing of the opening: “We’ve been planning this for about two years as part of our broad restructuring plan,” Slagle said. “We mapped out what had to be done and when, and the center point of that timing was the development and introduction of our US10 engines. We thought that if we did it last year, we could only talk about the promise of the US10 engine and we thought it would be good to wait one more year. We correctly guessed we’d be entering an upmarket rather than still dealing with the recession and we would have a few months’ experience behind our US10 product.”
Slagle also took the opportunity to brief customers and media on current market conditions.
“It looks like we’re emerging from this in a good way,” he said. “We saw good activity early in the year, then it flattened but it didn’t turn down. It feels like we have legs underneath this recovery.”
Slagle said the North American truck market is on pace to be 20% stronger this year than last and that it should improve again next year.
“One thing we’ve been watching very closely is, we’ve seen the average age of the fleet move from six years, four to five years ago to over eight years now. So there’s probably a good bit of pent-up demand in the marketplace,” Slagle said. As for Mack itself, Slagle said it has seen an 84% improvement in sales from Q3 09 to Q3 2010 and sales were up 40% from the second quarter of this year to the third. That’s encouraging, Slagle noted, because Mack is only now on level footing with some of its competitors who stockpiled 2009 engines and have just recently begun shipping trucks with EPA2010 engines. Flaherty said Mack has been delivering trucks with nothing but EPA2010-compliant engines under the hood since the spring and it stopped taking orders for trucks with the previous generation engines in the fourth quarter of last year, earlier than most other truck makers. Of the recent order activity, Slagle said “The trajectory is headed in the right direction and that’s been done in the absence of our traditionally strong construction market.” He added he’s hopeful the housing market, and in turn the construction segment, will recover in 2011.