Medium-duty trucks and heavy-duty engines loom large in the mind of truck maker Freightliner LLC, resulting in two marketing strategies revealed at press coverage held in North Carolina last month.

Mark Lampert, Freightliner's senior vp of sales and marketing for Freightliner, believes the medium-duty truck market in the United States, Canada, and Mexico is stuck in a “holding pattern” as buyers wait for economic times to improve.

He says industry sales of Class 6 and 7 medium-duty trucks reached 67,800 units through June of this year, down 17% from the same period in 2001, and may continue to drop for the rest of 2002.

However, despite the medium-duty market downturn, Freightliner continues to push ahead with the production schedule of its new medium-duty line, the Business Class M2. The 106-in BBC M2 model has been in production since June of this year, Lampert says, with 100-in. and 112-in. BBC models due for production in the first quarter of 2003. In the fourth quarter, Freightliner plans to start producing 132-in. BBC extended cab and 154-in. BBC crew cab M2 models.

Freightliner COO Roger Nielsen adds that the company plans to phase out its old Business Class line and replace it with M2 models over the next 24 months. Right now, M2 production is pegged at 20 trucks per day, with Business Class trucks at 40 to 50 units per day.

Freightliner plans to offer buyers two primary powerplant choices for its trucks: a Detroit Diesel Series 60 low-emission engine that uses EGR technology, and the Mercedes-Benz MBE4000 for heavy-duty trucks, including those built by its Sterling and Western Star subsidiaries.

The Detroit Diesel engine was submitted to EPA for certification on August 14; Mercedes-Benz was not part of the 1998 EPA consent decree, so the MBE4000 does not have to meet the new emission standards until 2004.