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DTNA’s Roger Nielsen on dynamic leasing, Detroit Assurance 5.0 and where its customer focus is being felt

DTNA’s President and CEO Roger Nielsen dives into the company’s Dynamic Leasing announcement, Detroit Assurance 5.0 adoption rates and the real-world benefits of DTNA’s customer-focused market approach.

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The Daimler Trucks North America booth at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show (NACV) stretched on for what seemed like a city block. It was host to everything from hard-working Western Stars to the latest SAE Level 2 automated Freightliner Cascadia with Detroit Assurance 5.0 to the embodiment of tomorrow’s electrification potential with the Freightliner eCascadia next to a lineup of charging stations. In the middle of it all was a virtual Elite Uptime dealer service area complete with demo bays and plenty of coffee to keep attendees rolling through the booth.

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Fleet Equipment was able to snag a couple of minutes with DTNA’s President and CEO Roger Nielsen to dive into its Dynamic Leasing announcement, get a bead on Detroit Assurance 5.0 adoption rates and talk about the real-world benefits of DTNA’s customer-focused market approach.

FE: Hi Roger, thanks for taking the time.

Nielsen: No problem, good to see you.

FE: Before we dive into the NACV announcements, one thing we did want to catch up on was DTNA’s customer focus. When you took over the role of president and CEO, you were very transparent about improving DTNA’s customer experience. Where are you at with that today and how are the customer experiences improving?

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Nielsen: The big thing is that we’ve moved away from a 72-hour service turnaround. Instead of saying, “We turned around a truck inside of 72 hours, you all should be happy,” we heard our customers say that they’d really be happy if we could do it inside their drivers’ 10-hour break time. We’re still shooting for that, but we’ve brought it down to 24 hours or less for 60% of our service orders.

And then we hear feedback from a customer who says, “When we call, someone cares. It doesn’t take six phone calls to get the job done anymore.” We’re seeing it inside our organization too. All I ask is that everybody that serves the customers takes on the urgency of the customer as their own, and we’re having success with it.

FE: Switching gears to Dynamic Leasing—where did that start? How much of it was technology and how much of it was customer demand?

Nielsen: First of all, we’ve had the technology do it for a while, but it came along when customers started describing their problems to us. They are seeing changing business models. They have some trucks running more dedicated [routes] and other trucks in over-the-highway operations with irregular routes. They found that the dedicated-route trucks had less miles on them the irregular routes; so they were switching trucks out due to mileage on the vehicles.

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Dynamic Leasing now lets them pay at basically the same rate at which the truck depreciates. You’re putting more miles on it? It depreciates faster, and so you pay more. And if it’s running less miles, it doesn’t depreciate as fast. Dynamic Leasing offers a base payment with some variability.

FE: Ah, that makes sense. Kind of like your cell phone and data used.

Nielsen: Right. I have a family of five cell phones with a base of 30 GB and the most it ever goes over is 8 GB.

FE: Is there a certain fleet size, application or equipment life-cycle this fits best?

Nielsen: I’d say it really fits those 36- to 60-month trade cycles.

FE: What’s interesting to me is that you’re now bringing telematics into the back office financial department. How does it work in regard to information privacy?

Nielsen: For customers who believe their truck routing is proprietary, for example, we don’t see the GPS routes. All we get is a once-a-month mileage update. We’re very careful about data privacy needs.

FE: Detroit Assurance 5.0 is finally hitting the road. Unveiled at CES earlier this year, it’s available for order and rolling off the line. Do you have an idea of the take rate for the entire suite that makes up Level 2 automated driving?

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Nielsen: Not yet.

FE: Right, well Detroit Assurance 2.0, the previous iteration, had an adoption rate around 70% when we last talked in January.

Nielsen: It still is. With Detroit Assurance 5.0 and the lane keeping technology it might take some time to hit that take rate, but we anticipate a ramp up with it.

FE: Alright, last question. Lots of cool truck equipment and technology at this year’s NACV. Everyone gets to kick the tires on all the competitors and suppliers offerings. What do you like to get out of the show?

Nielsen: The big thing is: I love talking to customers. I want to know what are they thinking, I want to hear about their challenges. It always starts with: How’s your business? That’s when we at DTNA learn the most.

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