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It was the day Navistar had waited for since the company had turned year-over-year profitability in 2019 after launching a product refresh. The announcement that the TRATON Group would acquire Navistar shot across the wire in mid-October 2020 and in July 2021, the $3.7 billion deal was done, the ink was dried and the now truly “international” gears started turning. Mathias Carlbaum was named chief executive officer and president, Navistar International Corp., the following September and got to work.
“Navistar has the desire to win; to bring us back as the recognized brand that we have been, and that we certainly will be in the future,” he said during his first industry press conference. “Coming in as the new owner, that desire to win is very welcoming.”
In joining the TRATON Group, Navistar now stands next to global truck manufacturing giants like Scania, MAN and Volkswagen (to name a few). The impact will be felt quickly, with long-lasting benefits.
“First, low hanging has been within procurement,” Carlbaum explained. “Traton people have been brought to the Navistar headquarters in Lisle to integrate processes and find where the group leverage within procurement can be brought to Navistar. That had a tangible outcome in the years already before the merger, but now it’s not two offices, it’s one. We’re very embedded in the group procurement.
“Secondly, we have some components that will be hitting the market quite soon, which would not have happened of course, if this alliance wouldn’t have started years before. “There are some things that we shall be bringing from Europe in the future technology around the [human-machine interface, or HMI].”
It’s not a one-way relationship, however. Carlbaum hinted that Navistar could share medium-duty technology with its European brethren.
“Within the group, Navistar is the biggest medium-duty range operator,” he said. “If you look into Scania, it doesn’t have it. MAN has some, and the Brazilian operation has some but size-wise, we are the biggest one. So I would like to turn it around. That will most certainly be somewhere that we take the so-called co-lead and develop and invest further for the group based on what we have here.”
Speaking of Scania, at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in 2019, Navistar announced that Scania would explore opportunities for Navistar to support mining customers in the Canadian market. Carlbaum noted that we’re likely to see that become a reality sooner rather than later.
“We are close to a solution on that, and we will be bringing that product into these certain applications in Canada, mainly into forestry and heavy off-road and on-road application there,” he confirmed. “Are there opportunities in certain segments in America for products? Unquestionably, there are. I won’t pick one now, but there are segments of products outside of the U.S. that would suit [those products] very well.”
Carlbaum noted that Navistar is not currently looking to bring those other brands into the U.S. market. The technology developed by the TRATON Group, however, could likely be applied across brands.
“We’ll look into: What technology do we actually bring in? When does this hit the market? Of course, some segments you can go, ‘This goes to electrification,’” he said, before he teased: “There are some [products] that we can bring in that have success outside. Just look at the MAN and Scania homepages and you’ll see some segments where Navistar isn’t represented today nor do we have our own products and pipeline [in those segments]. We will look at that.”
Clearly, Carlbaum sees a road ahead that’s marked with onramps to possibilities.
“We’re setting the stage for the future,” he said. “Sometimes mergers become an obstacle, but here I’d see it as an enabler.”
As to what it could enable, click below to read the rest of the series: