After a year of explosive growth through acquisition of 34 International dealerships in six states, Rush Enterprises Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Rusty Rush, says that the company is now in a consolidation mode as the International “stores” as he calls them, are brought into the Rush operation and culture.
In an interview at the recent Tech Skills competition, Rush said the acquisitions have come faster than he was planning but Rush said that it was a case of taking advantage of opportunity. In some cases, the businesses were on the block because there was no succession plan, in others the prior owners were staying on to manage the businesses. But in all cases “I didn’t steal them, I got them at a fair price,” Rush said.
Already in the works was a $50 million-dollar computer hardware and software upgrade for the existing mostly Peterbilt stores. Pulling the implementation forward to March of 2015, Rush said the big task now is to bring the International stores into the system. “This year was an acquisition stage. Next year and after will be integration,” he said.
The location of the acquisitions is mostly in the Mid-West and complementary to the locations of the Peterbilt locations in the south and west. Rush said that he considers Peterbilt a western style truck while International is much more mid-western so the locations suit the equity in the brands. Other franchises that complement the heavy-duty brands are Isuzu, Hino and Ford with additional specialized stores that include IC buses, Autocar refuse vehicles and special body partners for mixers, cranes and tow trucks.
Rush Truck Centers now has 108 locations to serve Rush customers and while there will be differentiation of services according to brand, a customer in need of service will be able to go to either brand franchise as necessary. “It’s all about uptime,” he said. “If we keep a customer’s truck up and running 29.3 days in a month and the competition does it so it’s running 28.5 days, that’s three quarters of a day more that it is running and hauling freight and earning revenue. That’s how we differentiate ourselves.”
Rush said the company will add an additional 1,500 employees to the 5,400 technicians, parts, sales and body-repair people and other management and support personnel already employed. Parts and service is vitally important in the operation and that’s what the Tech Skills Rodeo is all about. “Parts and service margins are six times better than truck sales in gross profit,” he said. “But parts and service takes investment—shop space, tools, people. You don’t need investment to sell a truck.”
Asked about the decision he and his father, founder Marvin Rush, made to go with Navistar and its subsequent technology problems, Rush said “I think it’s on the right path with SCR. In the interim, we’ve got to deal with what we have. There’s more problems than we’d like. We’ve been doing campaigns… but some people have been hurting too much over it. We’re doing all we can, but perception is reality.”
As well as contest like the Tech Skills challenge, Rush works hard to build team spirit. Part of that includes the partial sponsorship of Nascar driver Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart joined the celebrations at the San Antonio event, staying for the final awards banquet and sharing time with the suppliers, staff and, of course, the competing technicians.