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May 30, 2016 3:30 AM, EDT

Inaugural Atlanta Truck Show Lands DTNA, Navistar for 2017

This story appears in the May 30 print edition of Transport Topics.

The marketing of trucks took a major turn last week as two of the four large truck-making corporations committed to three cycles of the new North American Commercial Vehicle Show, starting with the September 2017 inaugural event in Atlanta.

Daimler Trucks North America and Navistar International Corp. announced their plans May 23 and 25, respectively, with both manufacturers saying they signed contracts with NACV Show operators Newcom Media USA and Hannover Fairs USA.

NACV will be held in Septembers of odd-number years at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center, with the first one set for Sept. 18-22, 2017. The new entry is a competitor to the Mid- America Trucking Show, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, since 1972.

DTNA and Navistar each said their large companywide displays will be in Atlanta rather than Louisville, although dealers associated with the OEMs retain the right to display at the 2017 MATS on their own. Daimler also said its subsidiaries might participate on their own, and Navistar said it might decide to return to MATS in 2019 or later, depending upon future circumstances.

DTNA President Martin Daum said the show would be “the perfect platform” for his company to connect with “our suppliers and fleet customers, launch new products and meet with industry press.”

Navistar Senior Vice President Jeff Sass told Transport Topics, “We’re looking for a comprehensive vehicle show. This is the perfect showcase for the International lineup of trucks and technology.”

Sass said NACV would be an opportunity to display all of its commercial vehicles at once, including on-highway, vocational, medium-duty and severe-service trucks — and maybe even school buses.

NACV’s operators are U.S. subsidiaries of Canadian and German companies. Newcom Business Media of Toronto is a publisher of trucking news and other information, as well as the operator of two Canadian trucking shows. Deutsche Messe owns the Hanover, Germany, fairgrounds site of the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show and operates the show although it does not own it.

“We will continue to work with the other truck manufacturers and strategic industry partners over the coming weeks to solidify their commitments, with the goal of presenting the full event concept to the industry at large by July 1,” said Joe Glionna, a Newcom vice president.

Glionna told TT two major parts of the strategy for building NACV are to land the four truck-making corporations and to get commitments for first three shows, not just one. NACV gave DTNA and Navistar seats on its exhibitors’ advisory committee.

Vice presidents for Volvo and Mack Trucks, units of Volvo Group, said they are considering options but have not made final decisions.

“We’re continuing to evaluate participation, taking into account the best interests of the Mack brand and our customers,” Mack VP John Walsh said.

“We evaluate all of our sales and marketing activities when we develop our business plans for the upcoming year. We base those business plans on our assessment of the best ways for Volvo Trucks to communicate our sales and marketing messages,” said Walsh’s Volvo counterpart, Magnus Koeck.

Paccar executives declined to comment.

Newcom’s Glionna offered no guarantees on landing Paccar and Volvo but did say he feels good about his chances because Volvo Trucks and Paccar’s DAF Trucks unit are based in Europe and exhibit at IAA, so they know how Deutsche Messe works.

Independent engine maker Cummins Inc. was a charter exhibitor at the first Mid-America 44 years ago and has been close to the event, in part, because its headquarters in Columbus, Indiana, is a 76-mile drive from the Kentucky Exposition Center. Cummins spokesman Mario Sanchez-Lara said the company is monitoring the decisions of truck makers.

“MATS has long been a successful show for Cummins. … The strength of the show is that it is more than just a business-to-business event — it’s a celebration of trucking in North America that attracts many drivers. … Looking ahead, we hope that the industry can now work towards a consensus in defining an agreed truck show calendar that is able to reflect the best interest of visitors, exhibitors and show organizers.”

Started by Daimler after a large MATS in 2015, all OEMs said they would skip Mid-America in 2016 to concentrate on IAA in Hanover, and then return to the United States in 2017. Exhibit Management Associates, the owner and organizer of MATS, has been clear on its intention to keep its show as an annual spring event.

EMA President Toby Young said he is “still communicating with the individual DTNA brands and the other North American Truck manufacturers to determine their plans for MATS 2017.

“While we had hoped that DTNA corporate and Navistar would be present at the 2017 MATS, we understand that they are focusing their marketing efforts on the medium- to large-sized fleets and are placing their bets with the new show,” Young said.

“MATS will continue to be a national show that addresses the needs of the North American trucking industry as a whole, including small/medium-size fleets, owner-operators and drivers, as well as suppliers and manufacturers seeking to engage with this broader audience,” he said.

In addition to Mid-America and NACV, another show was proposed in March by American Trucking Associations and the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association. Commenting after the announcements by Daimler and Navistar, ATA President Bill Graves said, “At this point, it is unlikely that our exploration of the possibility of a new truck show will be successful, but we will continue to look for ways to advance ATA’s position as the leading voice promoting trucking in the U.S.”

Graves added, “ATA is proud of, and appreciates, the strong relationship we have with our allied members and suppliers — especially our OEMs — and we intend to support them and their endeavors, which we believe should benefit our industry as a whole.”

Navistar’s Sass said he is eager for a show with a greater emphasis on actual truck sales.

“I could foresee some fleets coming to the show to look at our lineup and giving a [purchase order],” Sass said.

Sass said while OEMs compete fiercely for sales, Navistar would like to see all truck makers at the same place.

“From our view, if all of the OEMs are in one place, it lets customers compare and contrast our products with our competitors, and we like that because we’re proud of what we’ve done.

“And it’s good for the customers, too. If we’re all in, it draws better attendance from key stakeholders who don’t have to worry about going to four or five shows,” Sass said.