Let me “T” something up for you regarding Technology. Last week was spent at the biennial North American Commercial Vehicle show in Atlanta. It looks like 464 exhibitors were present and over 35 press conferences, events, and press releases were done. I heard over 5,000 people were in attendance. It’s not CES, and it’s not the European IAA, but it is getting bigger and better. It’s clearly the place to show off transportation technology for commercial vehicles. I’d like to see it move from focusing on the truck and servicing the truck to becoming a more holistic view of transportation technology including traffic infrastructure, back office automation, logistics, and government relations. I know that’s a tall order and many marketing people will disagree. However, getting decision makers to attend shows when there are so many to choose from does not appear to be helping anyone’s bottom line.
Three words came to mind as I listened and watched so many presentations and prowled the floor for something new.
- At least for me, it’s tantalizing to see what is possible. Many of the presentations talked about being able to order in the future and being able to deliver even further into the future. It’s much more common now to tantalize people with what is coming at the risk of having them wait to place orders for today’s equipment.
- Technology sells. It can be as simple as making some heavy piece of metal lighter by removing material using advanced modeling software, to over-the-air updates to allow a day cab to be optimized for urban deliveries in the day and reprogrammed at night to running regional applications. It ranges from new aerodynamic products to improved safety.
- Testimonials continue to be the best way to convince someone that something is worthwhile. I grinned inwardly yesterday at the golf club listening to a fellow golfer describe with excited animation how great regenerative braking is in his new car. His testimonial, two decades since the concept was first demonstrated to customers, is far more valuable to making technology tantalizing to others. This quote I found is indicative of the importance, “When Guthy-Renker... they started with 20% and I have this from one of their marketing adviser’s right out of the horse’s mouth. When they started working, they had 80% product features, 20% testimonials. They switched it to 80% testimonials, 20% product features and doubled their sales. So testimonials are another way you can remove downside in the mind of your ideal client.”
Every industry relies to some extent on trade-shows. As I talked with exhibitors, some mentioned it was a great show. Others said things to the effect there were not as many people, but they were quality contacts. Some complained that other booth displays interfered and blocked visibility of their booth. Trade shows take an exceptional amount of time and money to make them worthwhile. This is probably obvious to many leaders in business and marketing, but the best practices I observe include:
- Sending personal invitations in advance
- Having special events for invited customers
- Walking the show to check out the competition
- Location, location, location which means get your space early
- Timing of events and press releases to avoid conflicts
- Great audio and visual content that engages people
- Refreshments in the booth
- Get off the mobile phone and talk with live people
Here are some things I saw of interest and noted during the show.
- Key words and phrases spoken by many exhibitors were: Innovation, Cost of Ownership, Integration, Telematics, Cloud, Electrification, Hydrogen Fuel Cell, Safety, Efficiency, Normal replacement market, Over-the-Air, Penetration rates for different technologies, Uptime, Dynamic Lease, Tracking repairs, Voice recognition for service manual lookup, Service shop certification, Customer focus, Tire pressure, Disc brakes, Smart.
A few more items of note to me.
- While there was a considerable amount of talk regarding electric vehicles, the numbers of vehicles discussed in the next few years were in the hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand. With a market of 240,000 class 8 vehicles alone, that’s a very small number. It will take considerable time for the market to accept these vehicles regardless if they are powered entirely by batteries or by hydrogen fuel cells.
- The vehicle OEMs have positioned themselves well as vertically integrated for diesel powered engines, mechanical transmissions, and mechanical axles. However, there was considerable muscle being put in by tier 1 suppliers to establish themselves as the vertical integrators for the newer technology for the electric vehicles. Vertical integration for the safety features seems to now be between the two. For decades, the tier 1 suppliers have been in control. Daimler has decided to take on vertical integration in this area. I got the idea that other vehicle OEMs are considering a similar move. Let’s see what the next 2-year cycle of innovation brings to trucks and trucking.
- Horizontal integration is not dead. Vehicle OEMs want to leverage the suppliers and the suppliers want to get more content per vehicle. This was evident to me at such suppliers as Bosch, Mahle, Dana, ZF, Eaton, Continental, Stoneridge, and Meritor. Larger OEMs on a global scale are more likely to pursue vertical integration in as many places as possible while the smaller OEMs, often with a smaller footprint geographically, will be receptive to the tier-1 suppliers taking the lead.
- I was surprised by some statistics given out regarding vehicle OEM telematics installed. Volvo indicated over a million installed globally—560,000 on trucks globally—200,000 in North America. Daimler indicated they had 250,000 connected trucks. I did not record numbers for PACCAR and Navistar. It’s a bit smaller than I anticipated.
- GreatDane and Truck-Lite continued their push for adding additional sensors and smarts to the trailers. Peterson Manufacturing, Grote, and Phillips Connect were lower key in their booths. Hyundai chose to concentrate on their Hydrogen concept vehicle rather than the smart trailer items previously shown. Someone mentioned 8 suppliers in this category. I’m only able to name 6 right now.
There were exceptionally few new entrants at this show. I did find one LIDAR supplier that has a mechanically rotated unit rather than a solid state electronically controlled beam. It was a small, 3-year-old startup coming out of stealth mode. I don’t think this was the show for them.
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