Editorial: The First Swing at Bat

The inaugural North American Commercial Vehicle Show was marked by big swings from truck manufacturers, both in terms of their displays, and in what they had to say.

Electricity was in the air at Daimler’s events, as electric power for the trucks of tomorrow — and today — was the hot topic. Those in attendance at a party the company hosted the night before the show kicked off were given an early peek at this theme, as Martin Daum, head of Daimler’s global truck and bus business, said that his company is researching how to extend the operating range and hauling capacity of heavy-duty, electric-powered trucks.

The next day, during a 90-minute press event designed to mimic a morning news show — complete with a pair of hosts, guests and correspondents — the company showcased, among many other things, an electric-powered version of the Canter medium-duty cabover from Daimler’s Mitsubishi Fuso brand. Dubbed eCanter, the truck will soon enter duty with UPS Inc. and a selection of New York-based organizations. A Daimler rep noted during the Sept. 25 show-within-a-show, the next generation is already under development.

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Navistar Inc. is also getting in on the electric action, announcing that it is developing a Class 6/7 electric truck, but at NACV it focused its introductions on more conventional products, unveiling a new medium-duty model and announcing that it will work with new corporate partner Volkswagen on a new line of global, big-bore engines. The announcement of the engine pact is an important next step for the company, following the launch earlier this year of a new proprietary engine. And the debut of the new truck is the latest in a succession of product launches for the company. All of this is part and parcel of Navistar’s march to recover from its recent financial troubles, and the flashy press event it hosted at NACV showed that it’s ready to make some noise.

Both Volvo and Mack showcased the new models they’ve recently launched, taking big swings at an on-highway market that has been dominated by their rivals, while also laying claim to the regional and vocational segments that have traditionally been strengths.

The fact that all of these companies had new trucks to tout at the show (Paccar Inc. was not present) is indicative of the exciting times we’re living in, and of the fortunate timing of this inaugural NACV. It’ll be two years before we see if show organizers — and exhibitors — can recreate this kind of excitement. But for the first time at bat, we’d call NACV a hit.