LOUISVILLE, KY. Despite ongoing weakness in the construction sector, which accounts for many of its vocational truck sales, Mack Trucks is nonetheless “well-positioned for success,” said Kevin Flaherty, senior vice president-U.S. and Canada, at a media briefing here at the Mid-America Trucking Show.
“The construction sector is extremely weak,” he added, “but it is only one of three core segments for Mack” with the other two consisting of refuse and “economic-haul” (day cab and small sleeper) applications. He pointed out, too, that despite 2011 truck demand being driven only by the need to replace aging equipment, Mack expects to see “modest growth in demand - even from construction” buyers.
“I’m proud to say that despite there being almost no Class 8 construction truck market last year, we managed to maintain our overall North American market share, actually grow our U.S. share, and preserve or expand our leadership positions in the segments of the market that are core to Mack,” Flaherty said. “The diversity of our business and our wide range of products, both highway and vocational, allows us to better weather storms in a particular segment, like the one we’re experiencing now in construction.
“While demand for vocational vehicles remains low, we’re encouraged by a number of factors,” he continued. “Despite extremely difficult economic times, we’ve continued to invest in our product range, and we’re announcing some key enhancements to our Mack Pinnacle model highway truck series here [today].”
Flaherty also reported that “customer response to Mack ClearTec SCR trucks has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly when it comes to fuel economy and performance. We sold out every slot we had for our new Mack mDrive automated manual transmission almost as soon as we introduced it here last year, and demand for that product continues to be very strong. Our dealers have continued to provide the kind of customer service and support that’s at the heart of Mack.
“In short,” he added, “despite a rather large bump in the road right now in the construction segment, it’s clear that Mack’s future is bright.”
Flaherty said Mack expects a Class 8 North American market this year in the range of 220,000 trucks, driven primarily by replacement demand given the average age of the existing U.S. fleet, which at eight years is the oldest since deregulation hit the industry back in 1980.
Product enhancements introduced at the truck show included new “optimized” roof and chassis fairings for Mack Pinnacle on-highway tractors, additional fuel-efficient Econodyne ratings for its Mack MP engines, and interior enhancements intended o improve driver comfort and productivity.
Roof fairings have been redesigned for the Pinnacle 70-in. high-rise, 70-in. mid-rise and 60-in. mid-rise sleepers. New chassis fairings are “stronger, lighter and longer, covering up to a 140-gal. fuel tank, yet costing considerably less than the previous option,” said Jerry Warmkessel, marketing manager—highway products.
“Customers ordering Mack Pinnacle model sleepers with improved aerodynamics can expect up to a 6% fuel-efficiency improvement,” Warmkessel stated.
“The new roof fairings are optimized for the lowest possible coefficient of drag and a much smoother transfer of air from the truck to the trailer,” he explained. “The design of the new chassis fairings is simpler, and more aerodynamic. The fuel efficiency improvements achievable with these optimized aero aids and the proven performance of our MP engines with ClearTech SCR positions the Mack Pinnacle among the best in highway fuel efficiency.”
Other Pinnacle enhancements noted are a new optional one-piece windshield and an updated Grand Touring trim package with button-tuck vinyl and ultra-leather seats that “provide driver comfort and a welcoming environment, at no extra charge over the previous trim offering.
Mack also announced the addition of four new Econodyne ratings – MP7-405E, MP8-415E, MP8-445E, MP8-505E— “each fully optimized for fuel efficiency without sacrificing power,” said David McKenna, director of powertrain sales and marketing. “Through an enhanced fuel mapping strategy, Mack’s EconoBoost intelligent torque management system offers an extra 200 lbs.-ft. of torque seamlessly through the system command.”
McKenna explained that “we found drivers can significantly increase fuel efficiency by remaining in the top gear as much as possible. “EconoBoost initiates at 1,300 RPM, providing additional power that allows drivers to remain longer in the top two gears. The engine torque reverts back to the lower profile when the engine senses situations with zero torque input, such as cresting a hill.”
For the vocational market, Mack introduced a new twin-steer package for its Granite straight truck. Available in axle-forward or axle-back packages, the twin-steer now offers vertical back-of-cab placement of DPF/SCR aftertreatment components.
Also new to Mack vocational models is Body Link III. Designed with extensive input from body builders, this newest version of Body Link “provides a conveniently located under-cab 29-pin connector, cab pass-through boot for a quick and reliable body hookup, and assignable in-cab switches,” said Curtis Dorwart, vocational marketing product manager.
First announced last week at the ConExpo/ConAgg construction show in Las Vegas, Mack also showed off the new sleeper cab version of the Granite. Dorwart said that “with a 36-in. flat top sleeper compartment equipped with a curtain, bunk restraint and a 30-by-80 in. mattress, the axle-forward Granite Sleeper is ideal for customers in any market working to meet hours-of-service requirements.”
Dorwart also discussed the key features of the new Granite Medium Heavy Duty model, also introduced at ConExpo/ConAgg. He said this truck was designed to “meet the needs of vocational customers for whom a lighter spec gets the job done.”