While the pandemic crushed medium-duty truck demand this year by some 40%, “We are seeing some green shoots,” said Jonathan Randall, Mack’s senior vice-president of sales and commercial operations, when talking to trade press journalists Sept. 22. “Next year we expect upward pressure on Class 6/7 (demand) and we are confident in the outlook we have for this segment.”
That’s good news for Mack, having invested US$13 million into a new 280,000 sq.-ft. Roanoke Valley assembly plant dedicated to the MD Series trucks. It will employ about 250 workers by the end of February, 2021.
One of the things that attracted Mack to the medium-duty market is its consistency. Randall described it as a “solid, consistent performing market,” totaling about 100,000 trucks a year in the U.S. and Canada.
“At the same time, we had many customers who run our Class 8 products along Classes 6/7 who were asking us for a single source solution,” he added. “Our dealers were hungry to get into this business as well. We know we have the footprint and capability to service this market and we believe the market will continue to be solid.”
Mack now offers a full line of Classes 6-8 trucks, covering a broad range of applications. The MD series is aimed at: P&D, van, refrigerated, flatbed, dump, tank, boom and bucket applications, among others. The MD6 is a Class 6 with a GVWR of 25,995 lbs, and the MD7 a Class 7 with a GVWR of 33,000 lbs.
To get production underway in the age of Covid-19, Mack has had to follow all Center for Disease Control protocols, including social distancing, temperature checks upon entering the plant, requiring masks inside, and constant communication with employees. Mack also hired about 85 people in the midst of the pandemic, while job losses elsewhere were soaring.
But Randall doesn’t expect the virus to have a lasting effect on Mack’s production or targets.
“It hasn’t impacted our ramp, we are still ramping up to the plan we expected to,” he said. “We have a plan in place to not affect our volume targets in not only 2020, but also 2021.”
While Mack doesn’t disclose sales expectations, Randall said “We have aggressive market share targets and we are able to meet those market share targets and growth with the current setup we have.”
In entering the medium-duty segment (a segment Mack last played in in 2002), Mack partnered with Allison for transmissions and Cummins for power – no gold bulldogs (the symbol of a fully integrated Mack powertrain) to be found on MD hoods.
“In researching what we wanted to do, we talked to a lot of customers who run a lot of medium-duties and existing customers who run a full line (of classes) to figure out the required baseline product to be viable in this market,” Randall said. “The feedback was that partnering with these world-class suppliers – Cummins and Allison – to supply our trucks coming out of the gate would be acceptable to our customer base.”