Kevin Jones/TBB
Richard Howard, DTNA's senior vice president of sales and marketing, gives a market update at a media event on Aug. 20.

Daimler: Truck sales to remain solid; fleets view safety tech as important as fuel economy

Aug. 26, 2019
Daimler Trucks North America says the overall market will remain strong through next year.

YOUNTVILLE, CA. Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) says the overall market will remain strong through next year, and that fleet customers are beginning to consider active safety systems on equal footing as fuel economy when making new vehicle decisions.

Richard Howard, DTNA’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, recently visited with fleet executives he said are projecting another busy peak shipping season, easing concerns that ongoing tariff and trade disputes could lead to a significant economic slowdown.

Howard spoke Aug 20 during a DTNA media event that included updates on the company’s aftermarket growth, vocational truck strategy and development of electric trucks.

Howard stressed the industry is coming off several “stellar” years of truck sales, and compared the current environment with a plane “losing altitude” from 40,000 feet down to 30,000 feet. He said DTNA is running at maximum production, and is selling every truck being produced.

Howard said the projection for total Classes 6-8 sales in North America for 2019 should be about 480,000, with that figure for 2020 dipping between 380,000 and 400,000 units. There is some “softness” in the used truck sector, but the overall market should remain strong, even if next year represents a return “back to normal,” Howard said.

His comments differed a bit from ACT Research, which said in a recent report Class 8 market-leading indicators continue to erode, in concert with deteriorating freight volumes and rates.

“Ultimately, the current situation of weak orders and strong builds is unsustainable,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst.

Meanwhile, Howard also said the growing suite of active safety systems offered through DTNA’s Detroit Assurance system is rapidly gaining in popularity. He went so far as to suggest active safety systems are becoming at least as high a priority for fleets as fuel economy when purchasing a new truck.

About 70% of new Freightliner trucks are currently ordered with Detroit Assurance, and the next generation Freightliner Cascadia with Detroit Connect 5.0 goes into production shortly after Labor Day.

Howard said interest is “super high” as fleets realize how an investment in advanced safety and automated systems can reduce accidents, thus reducing total cost of ownership of these vehicles over the long term.

The Detroit 5.0 system includes forward lateral control, with automated braking and steering. It was first announced in January when DTNA unveiled the 2020 Cascadia with available Level 2 automated features. 

By 2021, it will also include lane departure protection, providing even greater safety benefits than the current lane departure warning system.

DTNA remains the market share leader in the on-highway sector, but also has plans to further grow the vocational business, said David Carson, president of Western Star Trucks.

This is a sector with “unique demands and expectations,” said Carson, with many customers owning trucks significantly longer than the on-highway customer.

Overall, Carson said ordering activity has been strong and is often being driven from the development of new buildings and other construction projects across the United States.