Back on track

Quiet Amer­i­cans look ready to shrug off re­cent his­tory and shake the mar­ket

Australian Transport News - - Forward Vision -

T his hum­ble scribe can re­call a time when the in­ner thoughts of a US pres­i­dent had to wait on a book or a news­pa­per story to see the light of day. No longer. And as the present in­cum­bent looks to shake up the sta­tus quo, for even­tual good or ill, it seems all things Amer­i­can are be­ing seen through the prism of Don­ald Trump’s tweets.

Cer­tainly, it has been only 18 months into his in­cum­bency but Trump has been as good as his prom­ise to those who voted for him to change the world.

We now know that this means in­ject­ing a huge dose of un­cer­tainty into the world econ­omy through a rad­i­cal re­ver­sal of the trade pol­icy, just as mem­o­ries of the Global Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis fade and cor­po­rate bal­ance sheets look health­ier than they have done for a decade.

The tim­ing seems per­haps un­for­tu­nate, though fans might ar­gue that if a re­align­ment is to hap­pen, best it oc­cur in bet­ter times, rather than when eco­nomic fragility was the rule.

The tim­ing may be ac­ci­den­tal but it is, as they say, ev­ery­thing.

Closer to the in­dus­try here, the roil­ing of ac­cepted norms in­ter­na­tion­ally and the fo­cus on what the pres­i­dent says, as op­posed to what his pres­i­dency does, threat­ens to ob­scure a sep­a­rate de­vel­op­ment from the world’s largest econ­omy – the push to make “Amer­i­can trucks” great again.

His­tor­i­cally, this coun­try has had a re­mark­able record of suc­cess­fully Aus­tralian­is­ing US brands, mak­ing them more suit­able to lo­cal con­di­tions while en­joy­ing the best tech­nol­ogy and ‘ know-how’ from across the pond.

Now that US busi­ness con­fi­dence is back on an even keel, how­ever, an added keen­ness can be dis­cerned to right var­i­ous wrongs com­mit­ted when panic was the rule 10 years ago and per­haps for a few years af­ter that.

As Tech­ni­cal Ed­i­tor Steve Brooks makes plain in two in- depth treat­ments, of In­ter­na­tional and Freight­liner, in this is­sue, the am­bi­ence sur­round­ing senior non-Mack ex­ec­u­tives of un­fin­ished busi­ness in Aus­tralia is pal­pa­ble.

Those who have won­dered how such a proud make as Freight­liner could have lost its way and failed to get back on track for so long should not un­der­es­ti­mate the im­pact of GFC on US man­age­ment psy­che af­ter the long boom. ( It was al­ways with a sense of un­ease that we re­ported com­plaints about the squeaks and rat­tles of the brand’s cabs that seemed to point to a cer­tain dis­trac­tion up the man­age­ment line.)

But, equally, the de­sire for suc­cess may be di­verted but never ex­tin­guished and learn­ing from mis­takes is the rule. One of the lat­ter re­lates to do­ing due dili­gence on lo­cal con­di­tions and ex­pec­ta­tions.

A chal­lenge they face is, again, one of tim­ing; the ques­tions cen­tring on whether it will be enough to fol­low in the lead of the likes of Sca­nia and Mercedes-Benz in thor­oughly ac­cli­ma­tis­ing the ma­chin­ery and sea­son­ing the sup­port in­fra­struc­ture. With the steely de­ter­mi­na­tion that’s on dis­play at present, more should be ex­pected.

At least they have an op­por­tu­nity to tweak rather than build a pro­file.

There has been an un­der­ly­ing good­will to­wards Amer­i­can ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ing that ties in emo­tion­ally to the mo­tor­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, pos­i­tive fa­mil­iar­ity be­ing the com­fort and at­trac­tion that it is. In­ter­na­tional’s ad­van­tage is that of a lo­cal her­itage trans­planted to the western hemi­sphere but with re­tains a lo­cal fond­ness and en­joys lo­cal de­sign in­put.

As you can also read in this edi­tion, lo­cals fond of the Western Star brand have been given hope of re­newal where once crit­i­cal eyes viewed what ap­peared to be in­er­tia with deep con­cern. While 2020 does seem quite a while off, we wish such loyal cus­tomers all the best. The out­come, if it comes to fruition, will be fas­ci­nat­ing.

“There has been an un­der­ly­ing good­will to­wards Amer­i­can ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ing.”

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