Thursday, March 27, 2014

If you had a hammer ... or a Mack truck

Photo courtesy of Mack
Mack’s press conference at MATS this year could have been inspired by the late Pete Seeger, who wrote “If I Had a Hammer” along with whole slew of other iconic folk songs that celebrated America’s working people. Mack’s VP of Marketing John Walsh likened the Mack truck to a hammer and said, “People want tools they can understand and relate to.”

In fact, the whole press event had a Seeger feel to it, especially the “Man and the Machine” video.
Stephen Roy, President of Mack Trucks North America, Sales and Marketing announced clear new goals for its time-tested bulldog brand. Roy also told the trucking press that while Mack has enjoyed success in regional haul and vocational trucks, the truck maker is ready to expand its focus on the highway side.

Roy’s forecast: Mack now has the “right product, the product support and product solutions” to expand its focus to pursuing a bigger part of the Class 8 on-highway market share in North America.

Roy said in order to expand Mack’s focus on highway trucks, it has invested heavily in its tech support and increasing its support network for Mack customers. He said Mack’s total dealership network now numbers 428 full dealerships and facilities that offer parts and service.

Roy said Mack had worked hard to dominate vocational truck sales but hasn’t “done the job on the highway side.” A critical part of the plan is the new “uptime command center” at the Greensboro, N.C., campus, which is due to open in October. Roy said uptime had been a big focus for the past five years but the new three-story building will, for the first time, put all of their experts and tech support together in one location.

As part of the uptime focus, Roy talked about a new feature of Mack’s GuardDog Connect, which was introduced last year. GuardDog is a remote diagnostics program that sends vital breakdown info to Mack’s OneCall customer center.  A team of technicians evaluate the fault code and identify the exact issue and repairs needed. The driver is then instructed where to take the truck.

Roy said starting this year, GuardDog Connect now includes a new feature. When the truck pulls into the dealership, there’s a system to ensure it gets fixed and back on the road as soon as possible, using a virtual perimeter around a geographic location.

“There’s a geofence around every one of our dealerships,” Roy said. “So we’ll know when a truck comes into a dealership and when a truck leaves a dealership.” Roy said the GuardDog isn’t set up to be Big Brother, but to help the customer and assist the dealer.

“We’ll call the dealer and say, ‘We notice this truck is in; what can we do to help you get it out the door as soon as possible’?”

In another uptime plan to keep trucks rolling, Roy said the company was pushing hard toward 24/7 phone service. “Knowing there are after hour events,” he said, “the Mack Center is now answering calls on behalf of 60 percent of Mack dealers after their doors close.”

“We now stack up against anybody,” Roy said. “We hope our competitors will hear our footsteps.”

Mack’s overall share of the North American Class 8 truck market remains just under 10 percent, a level Roy hopes to see increase this year.

Roy has been on the job since Jan. 1, 2014. Previously, he led the company’s aftermarket business.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Mack’s new mantra. I went to Allentown about a month ago and had a chance to find out more about this.
For one thing, doesn’t Mack’s sister truck builder Volvo more or less have dibs on the on-highway segment? Roy clarified that the perception that Mack had developed its vocational focus as part of the Volvo Group to avoid infringing on Volvo Truck North America’s quest to dominate the highway segment was not accurate.

“One and one is not always two,” he has said, saying the Volvo Group does not want to place limits on the two truck makers. Roy said if one of the sister companies did not make a competitive highway truck, it shouldn’t be assumed the sales of such trucks would automatically go to one who did.

“So we want to see what Volvo can do on the vocational side and see what Mack can do on the highway side.”

Roy told the press in February the Mack Pinnacle with axle-forward configuration, especially the well-appointed Rawhide package, will likely play a role in the stepped-up effort.  

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