New Navistar leader urges ATD members to prepare for EV boom

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Updated Mar 17, 2022
Mathius Carlbaum
Navistar President and CEO Mathius Carlbaum speaking Friday at the 2022 American Truck Dealers (ATD) Show in Las Vegas.

It might not seem like it yet, but trucking is nearing a tipping point regarding electrification. During a speech at the 2022 American Truck Dealers (ATD) Show Friday in Las Vegas, new Navistar President and CEO Mathius Carlbaum told attendees electric heavy trucks are likely to achieve a total cost of ownership level equal to diesel power in the next four to seven years, depending on applications. Once that day comes, Carlbaum says dealers must be ready.

Adapting to electric vehicles will require a fundamental change to dealer operations, both structurally and in how dealers serve their customers. Carlbaum says dealers who want to remain on top of their markets for decades to come need to commit to evolving their businesses now. He says waiting until that day comes will be too late.

[RELATED: Kari Rihm wins 2022 ATD Dealer of the Year]

“Let us be prepared to be the first movers [on this technology],” he says. “Be an early adopter. Be ready to support these vehicles before the market hits the tipping point … because then things will change fast.”

Fortunately for dealers in attendance, Carlbaum also offered key tips on how dealers can follow his advice and act now to prepare for an electric future.

He says North American OEMs are investing a small fortune into this technology and are constantly developing technical resources dealers can acquire to better understand how EVs will need to be sold and serviced. Carlbaum says heavy electric trucks will have approximately half the number of components as diesel trucks, which means dealers will need to evolve their service strategies away from reactive parts and service sales toward more proactive battery management and uptime solutions.

[RELATED: DTNA, Freightliner boss: Final mile, e-commerce cause 'fundamental change' in trucking]

Additionally, because early electric trucks will be incredibly reliant on a small (but likely fast-growing) national charging grid, Carlbaum says dealers who choose to provide customer charging and battery asset monitoring are likely to engender more support from customer partners.

Heavy electric trucks also will have a unique resale market. Carlbaum says when heavy EVs become commonplace in the trucking space battery technology will likely have improved to a point where a 5- to 6-year-old battery may only see a deterioration rate of 5-10 percent compared to a new battery. Dealers will “want to secure the battery after the end of the first ownership,” Carlbaum says.

He says dealers also should work with their OEMs to better understand how to alter their service bays and train their technicians to repair these vehicles when service is required. Heavy EVs may have fewer parts but they won’t be impervious to service needs. Carlbaum adds dealers shouldn’t fear this step, daunting as it may appear. He says they’ve made similar transitions in the past with the introduction of aftertreatment systems and connected vehicles and telematics.

Finally, there’s the matter of actual charging. Carlbaum says “money will find its way to charging” on a national level, and OEMs again can offer dealers guidance on how to implement charging stations at their own locations. Implementing on-site charging, like service shop overhauls, take time and investment, Carlbaum adds, which further supports this point that dealers need to act now to succeed tomorrow.

“Many of us might not realize the speed at which this change is coming. To act tomorrow may be too late,” he says. “When [EVs] become the norm, you will want to be in the pole position to win the race.”

McCandless takes over as new ATD chair

Friday’s general session also included the introductory address for Scott McCandless of McCandless Truck Group, new ATD chairman.

Like his predecessor Steve Bassett and other prior ATD leadership, McCandless pleaded with his fellow dealers to remain engaged in ATD to help advocate for the dealer channel. McCandless said ATD has a responsibility to speak up for its customers and fight against aggressive an unreasonable emission regulations, cumbersome Federal Excise Tax and other regulations and mandates that hamper the acceptance of new technology into the transportation sector.

Regarding emission standards in particular, McCandless says dealers are “here for clean air, clean water and healthier environments.” But he says getting there depends on practical policies, not CARB standards that are “overly stringent and don’t work for national standards.”

“The bottom line — demands on our industry are still unreasonable and ATD will continue to advocate for mandates that make sense,” he says.

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