OAKLAND, CA – Mack Trucks is once again turning to the power of celebrity partnerships as it looks to expand its share of a growing North American truck market.
The truck maker is now an official sponsor of Petty’s Garage, the high-performance speed shop established by NASCAR’s Richard Petty. Under the deal, the Garage receives a 2018 Mack Pinnacle Axle Back model with an MP8-445C engine to move cars to public events as part of the Performance Tour.
This build’s on Mack’s established relationship with the NASCAR race series, which has it providing 10 Pinnacles to haul gear, equipment, and other technologies.
For Mack customers, the NASCAR relationship means opportunities to ride in pace cars or see drivers load in equipment at track level. Now appearances by Petty – one of the biggest names in auto racing – will be included as well.
“There’s nothing like The King walking into your hospitality suite to say hi,” says John Walsh, Mack’s vice president – marketing and global brand.
This is not the only time Mack has leveraged the power of celebrity endorsements. Earlier this year, for example, it established a relationship with Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Walsh remembers reading a profile in Sports Illustrated about the player, who was not highly recruited in high school but proved himself at the University of Buffalo and eventually became a dominant force in football. He thought the man who shared the same name and values as the truck maker would be a great fit for the company, but put the idea on the back burner. Such a relationship would probably be too expensive anyway.
Then the phone rang a week later, and a caller identified himself as the player’s agent.
“I’m thinking this is a prank,” Walsh admits. But they also said it wasn’t about the money. A short time later, the defensive end was featured in a video released along with Mack Trucks’ new Anthem highway tractor.
The new Anthem tractor also received its own, well, anthem through Born Ready — a song written and performed by country music’s Steve Moakler.
“It all comes back to this genuine connection at the level of shared values,” Walsh says, referring to what is needed for a celebrity connection to work. He even had a chance to discuss the foundation of such partnerships during a presentation for music industry insiders at the Country Music Association.
Of course, it’s also about engaging potential customers, and this is a good time to find them.
It currently looks like 235,000 Class 8 trucks will be sold in North America this year, and there is even “upward pressure” on that projection, says Jonathan Randall, Mack’s senior vice president – North American sales. This compares to projections at the beginning of the year that called for 215,000 sales.
“The market is strong and continues to perform,” he says. The company now holds about 8.2% of year-to-date retail sales in the U.S. and Canada, although the market share on our side of the border has dropped slightly in part because of lower sales to regional haulers.
“The response [to the Mack Anthem] has been outstanding, the order intake has been robust, and we are extremely happy with the volumes since we launched the truck,” Randall adds, noting that is also attracting the attention of fleet buyers that have not traditionally been seen as Mack customers.
Next year the market is expected to be even stronger, reaching 260,000 trucks or more, he says.
Factors driving those positive numbers include a strong start for holiday spending, a stable construction segment, increased manufacturing activity, and improving freight volumes and rates which suggest growth in the longhaul segment. The latter truck market traditionally accounts for 48% of Class 8 sales, but has dropped to 41%. In 2018, the longhaul share is expected to expand to about 44%, Randall says.
Mack Trucks plans to focus particular attention on the western region of the U.S., where its market share sits at around 5%.
“We are going to focus on this region as an opportunity for growth because we believe we have the right trucks, Randall adds.
“Everything seems to be lining up for the very good year.”