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Western Star increases sales, defying slumping truck market


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Truck News  /  May 12, 2016

Slumping truck sales have not kept Western Star from growing its market share and sales numbers so far this year.

Kelly Platt, president of Western Star, said she believes the truck maker she oversees is the only one to have sold more trucks through the first few months of this year than last, when overall Class 8 truck demand was considerably stronger. And this despite the fact orders from Western Canada’s oilpatch – where Western Star has predominantly been strong – have dried up as oil prices have plunged.

Platt, when addressing truck journalists during a press briefing here this morning, noted her thoughts are with those displaced by the Fort McMurray wildfires.

“Our thoughts are certainly with those folks this week, as they fight that horrific fire and we hope there are Western stars up there helping them do that,” she said.

Even with the oilpatch in a rut, Western Star has grown its North American market share. This year, said Platt, the company will sell twice as many trucks as it did in 2010. Canada still represents about 30% of its build, with 65% of sales coming from the US and 5% from Australia.

Platt said Western Star owned 5.6% of the vocational market in 2015, up from 4.5% the year before and 3.8% in 2013. In Canada, its market share ranges from 8-11% and in some regions is greater than 25%, Platt noted.

Its overall North American market share is 3% year-to-date, up from 2.6% through the same period last year and 1.9% in 2010. Platt chalked the growth up to an expanding dealer network and versatile product line.

“Our product line is diverse and comprehensive and fully capable of appealing to any truck customers,” she said.

Sales have been buoyed with the release last year of the Western Star 5700XE, the truck maker’s first aerodynamic highway tractor. Dealers have 100 demonstration units out in the field and fleets that have purchased the trucks are seeing fuel economy of better than 7 mpg, Platt said.

One Winnipeg fleet was so enamored with the truck it changed its corporate logo to complement the truck’s styling.

“They said it changes their image in the business,” Platt said.

Through mid-March, Western Star had delivered 750 5700XEs to 331 customers. Many fleets, Platt said, are using it as a reward truck for their best drivers.

Mike Guarino, on-highway and municipal segment manager with Western Star, acknowledged the company was the last OEM to develop an aerodynamic on-highway tractor. But being last had its benefits, and he said he’s convinced the company got it right.

“We saw a need in the marketplace and decided to do it and do it the right way,” he said.

Western Star says testing has shown the 5700XE has the second best fuel economy in the segment, behind only the Freightliner Cascadia. Other trucks have better aero, Guarino admitted, but he said that’s more than offset by efficiencies provided by the integrated Detroit powertrain.

The 5700XE can only be had with Detroit power, something Platt said has not been a detriment. Eaton transmissions and the Detroit DT12 automated manual are available.

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