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The next step in truck evolution: Freightliner, Detroit executive interview

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Last year was a big year for Freightliner. Even after setting both company and industry records for order intake, Freightliner Trucks, driven by the Detroit powertrain, is showing no sign of slowing down in 2015. Richard Howard, senior vice president, sales and marketing, for Daimler Trucks North America, shares his thoughts on where the truck OE is going with its sights set on the road ahead.

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“2014 was a good year for Freightliner, and while we certainly can attribute that success to the Cascadia Evolution and the Detroit Powertrain, our market leadership is the result of more than just our products,” he says. “It’s the result of being able to deliver the best at all levels of our organization—and ensuring that we are all motivated by the same three priorities: product; customer driven; and winning team.”

Howard explains that Daimler focuses on its continuous, strategic execution of a vision and strategy that was established years ago. This vision impacts everything the company delivers to its customers. On the product end, this has resulted in Freightliner and Detroit delivering solutions through its smart vehicle integration that pays customers back and adds to their bottom line.

“Our success is also about how we partner with our customers,” Howard says. “Our customers tell us what they need for their business, and our development is driven by that need.”

The integration of equipment and intelligent systems is a reoccurring theme for both Freightliner and Detroit. In Howard’s view, it creates a product that’s more than just a sum of its equipment parts.

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He explains:

“The Detroit Powertrain is absolutely one of the many factors in our position as a market leader. For example, the penetration of automated manual transmissions has more than doubled over the past couple of years, and our customers tell us that the Detroit DT12 offers unmatched advantages in fuel economy, safety, driver comfort and performance. Additionally, solutions such as Detroit Connect and Detroit Assurance provide us with another opportunity to match our customers’ needs with the best products for their business. Ultimately, it’s not just about the powertrain, but it’s about our overall ability to deliver solutions that fulfill customers’ expectations on all levels. The best total cost of ownership.”

There’s no denying the power of Daimler’s Detroit powertrain, as it continues to be a top choice with customers—eight out of 10 Class 8 Freightliner trucks are being spec’d with Detroit power. The integrated Detroit Powertrain start of production is March 2015, and Daimler has already seen an impact on its orders.

“Vehicle integration lets us define the quality and the performance of our product so customers can run smarter, not harder,” he notes. “That’s also why vehicle integration is important to fleet managers, ultimately understanding their business needs and having the best options to support those needs is what resonates the most. While vehicle integration is a core part of our strategy, we will continue to offer our customers choices that will best fit their needs.”

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“We will keep listening to our customers, and we will never stop striving for continuous improvement. We will also continue to ensure our customers understand the full value we can provide to them,” Howard says. “We’ve had customers say that if they knew in advance how much our truck ultimately saved them, they would have spec’d more safety and performance features. And with the Integrated Powertrain and Detroit Assurance starting production in 2015, we’ll continue to help our customers understand all the performance and efficiency benefits available to them.

“We’d like to say a big thank you to our customers and partners for their trust,” he concludes. “We take nothing for granted, remaining fully customer driven and we will continue to improve and invest in our customers via our products, our people and our Freightliner dealer network.”

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