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Navistar: Executive Changes Will Help Drive Growth

June 28, 2017, by Deborah Lockridge

Attendees at HDT's Heavy Duty Trucking eXchange check out Navistar's new International RH model last month. Photo: Kareem Girgis
Attendees at HDT's Heavy Duty Trucking eXchange check out Navistar's new International RH model last month. Photo: Kareem Girgis

Navistar officials said they’re optimistic that excitement about their new products and an overall industry bump in truck orders will help them meet their financial goals for the year, while some executive leadership changes announced Wednesday are designed to help keep the company moving into the future.

Bill Kozek, president, truck and parts, is moving on to an as-yet-unnamed position focusing on emerging business opportunities and disruptive technologies. Replacing him is 37-year Navistar veteran Michael Cancelliere. And a new role of vice president of export, along with president of Mexico and Global Operations, will be filled by Bernardo Valenzuela, who’s returning to the company.

Cancelliere is reporting to Persio Lisboa, executive vice president and chief operating officer. Both spoke to trucking journalists on a conference call Wednesday morning following the announcement.

Asked about its forecast for Class 8 sales for North America for the rest of the year, Cancelliere said the company does expect Class 8 sales to pick up for the second half of the year, noting that Navistar's fiscal year ends in October. “As we look at the full year, we’re in the 25,000 or so range,” he said. “We’ve seen strong demand from customers for our products, and some [factory assembly] slots are tightening up with ourselves as well as competitors, so the market is definitely showing signs of picking up.”

New products still in the pipeline

As it continues to fight its way back from its 2010 emissions missteps, Navistar has been redesigning, refreshing and renaming its entire product line.

“We’re coming out with a new exciting line of products, which is giving us a lot of momentum in the marketplace,” Lisboa said, “and we want to build on that.”

He walked through that progression, starting with the HX premium vocational truck announced early last year, through the LT Class 8 line-haul truck launched last fall, the RH regional haul unveiled this spring, and the new A26 12.4-liter engine which is ramping up for production at Navistar’s Huntsville, Alabama, engine plant.

Upcoming products, he said, will be HV vocational trucks and MV medium-duty, noting that next year Navistar will have an entry in the Class 4-5 market. The company’s announced a large event at the new North American Commercial Vehicle show in Atlanta in September, where it’s expected that some of these products will be unveiled.

Spy shots surfaced recently on the Internet of a camouflaged truck believed to be the upcoming GM/International Class 5 medium-duty designed to compete with Ford’s F-650 and F-750. Industry rumors expect that not to be unveiled until next spring’s Work Truck Show.

Increasing global focus

Previously, Valenzuela spent 16 years at Navistar, working in roles of increasing responsibility across its export and Mexico businesses. He served as vice president of global trucks sales from 2008 to 2014, before leaving and founding Terranova GTS LLC, a developer and distributor of specialty commercial vehicles, primarily serving customers in Mexico and Latin America markets.

“We’re going to spend much more time driving focus inside of NA and Canada, and also part of the announcement we are expanding our reach in the export market, Mexico and global operations, which is another area of growth we are targeting to go after as well,” Lisboa said.

While discussions of exports in Navistar’s earnings call earlier this month were primarily related to alleviating a used-truck glut, Lisboa said, this announcement is predominantly about growing its export business of new trucks, “expanding our reach with new products beyond Mexico,” he said. “Typically the products that serve Mexico are the products that can serve other markets,” other than Europe with its tighter emissions standards. “We believe we can leverage the activities in the product side such as Mexico into Latin America, Middle East countries and other areas of the globe.”

Navistar already has a relationship in Asia, producing products in China that are distributed in Mexico. Bringing all those various global footprints together, to look for synergies and ways to leverage activities and products in one region to work in another, is the reason for putting one leader in charge, he explained.

Disruptive technologies

More details were promised to be forthcoming about Bill Kozek’s new position, which the company said will deal with disruptive technologies and vehicle electrification.

“It is a growing area of interest of ours,” Persio said. “We are in this alliance with Volkswagen Truck and Bus, and there is a lot of new disruptive opportunity that we see happening in the industry. Our plan is not just to participate, but to be able to drive some of those things and lead them, and I think Troy [Clarke] really wanted to have someone with a lot of experience in the business” to work on developing those opportunities. Kozek will explore “everything he can think of,” Persio said, including both internally developed products and technologies as well as alliances and partnerships.

Technology sharing was touted as part of that “wide ranging strategic alliance” announced last year with VW. That’s not only powertrain technology, which was a factor in the new A26 engine, but also is intended to explore collaboration in other areas, including advanced driver assistance systems, connected vehicle solutions, platooning and autonomous technologies, electric vehicles, and cab and chassis components. This leadership change seems to fit right in with that goal.

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