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Expo Transporte—Equipment suppliers respond to unique demands in Mexico

GUADALAJARA, Mexico. Take away the music, the vibrant colors, the parade of not-unattractive brand representatives, and all the rest that makes for a high-energy atmosphere, and Expo Transporte ANPACT would be just another trade show. Of course, take away those things and this wouldn’t be Latin America’s premiere exhibition of commercial vehicles, featuring the latest in market-tailored transportation solutions from global equipment manufacturers. 

Photographs can’t really capture the energy here, but they can offer a glimpse of this year’s event, featuring exhibits from truck and trailer makers, as well as component suppliers.

Cabover demand

Truck OEMs packed the exhibit space with an array light-, medium-, and heavy-duty equipment. The featured trucks were those new to the market, most of which were based on new models recently launched in the U.S.

But for market-leader Daimler, the expo was a showcase for a couple of new products introduced specifically to meet the demands of an evolving freight profile in Mexico, where the trucking industry is moving toward the cabover engine model for the heavy-duty market. 

“Customers are saying they need mobility, flexibility and to get to secondary roads,” said Flavio Rivera, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks Mexico. “In Mexico the customer says ‘I need to be ready to get to cities and to get to suburbs. I need to also have drivability and, of course, visibility.’”

Rivera noted that one in every five trucks sold in Mexico today is a cabover. And since 2009, nine brands have been bringing these “unconventional” trucks to the Mexican market. Some of those brands include Volkswagen, Hino, Foton, Hyundai, Freightliner, Kenworth, and Isuzu.

“We need to have trucks that can be easily driven in cities and on very narrow streets with very heavy traffic areas and in the last mile,” Rivera explained. “We are responding with multiple approaches for cabover options. And now we are installing an entire country portfolio. These will also show how Daimler’s global platforms are flexible enough to be customized for markets like ours.”

To strengthen its position in Mexico’s truck market, Daimler Trucks is adding two new models to its Freightliner “360 Family” of commercial vehicles – the Class 6 model 1217 and the Class 8 model 2528, which join the company’s Class 4 model 715, launched back in 2008.

“Mexico is a key part of our global and regional growth strategy,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) during a customer/dealer event.

He explained that the new models being added to the 360 Family of trucks represent the benefits of having a “global truck platform” that can be customized for regional and local markets.

“It’s about bringing to markets specific solutions for meeting customer needs,” Nielsen said. “By releasing these two models, we want to maintain … market leadership in Mexico and capture the cabover engine segment. We also hope to help transform this country’s commercial vehicle industry in the areas of safety, driver-centric design, and reliability.”

Martin Daum, member of the board of management at Germany’s Daimler AG and head of the company’s Daimler Trucks & Buses division, noted that Mexico is of “major importance” as a global truck production hub as well.

“These new members of the 360 Family will also provide customers with safety, security, reliability, and great efficiency,” he added.

So what about new Freightliner cabovers for the U.S. market?

“While we have seen the benefits and opportunities of COE models in our Mexico operations, currently we have no plans to introduce a COE model into Class 6 segments the U.S.,” Kary Schaefer, general manager, Freightliner and Detroit Product Marketing and Strategy Daimler Trucks North America told TBB. “But we are always investigating customer needs and market benefits of products we design and manufacture.”

Both the new Class 6 model 1217 and the Class 8 model 2528 offer a reinforced steel cabin, a proprietary powertrain, and what Daimler called a “versatile chassis” that allows for many different configurations.

They are also the first Freightliner vehicles with Euro V SCR engines to be commercialized in Mexico, setting the path to what the OEM called in a press statement “the production of cleaner vehicles with lower environmental impact and greater fuel efficiency.”

The Class 6 model 1217 comes spec’d with a 170-hp Mitsubishi engine married to a seven-gear Mercedes-Benz G85 transmission. It features a payload of eight tons, an adjustable telescopic steering wheel, electric windows and locks, air conditioning, standard fog lamps for better visibility, and will be available with three different axle distances, according to the OEM.

The Class 8 model 2528 comes spec’d with a 280-hp Mercedes-Benz engine linked to a Mercedes-Benz G131 manual transmission, with an extended cab option available.

The model 2528 provides 17 tons of payload, rear and frontal stabilization bars, air conditioning, electronic locks and windows, an ergonomic dashboard, engine and exhaust braking system, and optional sleeper cab configuration, the OEM said.

Mack in Mexico

Mack Trucks officially brought its new Anthem model to Mexico at Expo Transporte, a key part of its strategy to make additional strides into the growing market.

Mack showcased the Anthem and its expanded Mexican dealer network during a series of events at the trade show. Besides Mexico, the Anthem will soon be available throughout Latin America.

Mack first launched the Anthem model for the U.S. and Canadian markets in September.

In Mexico, the Anthem comes standard with Euro 4-rated Mack MP engines. Where approved, and where ultra-low-sulfur diesel and diesel exhaust fluid are available, customers can choose Mack’s model year 2017 MP8 engine.

The Anthem is also available with Mack’s GuardDog Connect remote diagnostics system. While that has been available a number of years in the United States and Canada, it is a newer development in Mexico.

Mack also highlighted the brighter exterior LED lighting on the Anthem, which officials said could help cut into the high number of accidents that plague Mexican roadways.

During its press event Mack honored the Trasca dealership group that has added 18 new locations to the network, an example, company officials said, of the ongoing investment to enhance the dealer network and service performance throughout Mexico.

Mack’s booth at Expo Transporte positioned itself as the tough and durable truck that is just the right fit for the Mexican market. That included a football challenge area to promote its sponsorship deal with the Oakland Raiders’ defensive standout Khalil Mack. 

Volvo’s new VNL

Volvo Trucks is expanding its product lineup in Mexico, offering several new models beyond the VNL series.

During his opening comments at Volvo’s press conference during Expo Transporte, Magnus Koeck, vice president of marketing and brand management, acknowledged the company “hasn’t done that fantastic lately” in Mexico.

However, he said that was about to change with the updated VNL series, as well as two models previously not offered south of the border.

Volvo sells about 25,000 trucks a year in Mexico, making it among its top 10 markets and close to the same size as Canada.

“Expanding our product range makes Volvo Trucks even more competitive in the Mexican market,” said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America.

First introduced in 1996, the updated VNL adds safety features including a smart steering wheel, putting controls for nearly all of the driver interface functions right at a driver’s fingertips.

While Volvo previously relied only on the VNL for longhaul sales in Mexico, it is widening its offerings with the VNR series and expansion of the Volvo autohauler (VAH) series.

Volvo said the VNR is tailored for regional haul applications in urban areas, pickup and delivery, liquid tankers, dry bulk, flatbed, and other regional applications. 

“Introducing the new VNR series in Mexico marks a giant leap forward for the market, which has historically lagged when it comes to equipment technology,” said Nyberg.

Similarly, Volvo said the VAH series allows it to better compete in Mexico’s burgeoning auto transport industry.

These vehicles in Mexico will be powered by Volvo D11 and D13 engines certified at Euro 4, which is Mexico’s current emissions standard. Volvo’s 2017 engines are an available option for trucks that will operate in cities where they’re permissible and ultra-low-sulfur diesel and diesel exhaust fluid are available.   

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