Joseph Sober believes the demand for new heavy-duty trucks is going to remain flat until the fourth quarter of this year. But he also thinks there will be a lot of opportunity ahead for suppliers prepared to meet the changing needs of truck buyers.

“I think new-truck orders are going to stay down until the fourth quarter, then you’ll get an uptick” in sales, Sober, vp and general manager for Dana Corp.’s Spicer Driveshaft division, told Fleet Owner.

Sober was in Washington, D.C. last week as part of a team of Dana executives who received the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality award from President George W. Bush.

Sober said truck component suppliers must realize price will not be the top demand of truck customers in the future. Issues such as fuel efficiency, weight, and noise/vibration/harshness (NVH) will be uppermost in their minds, he explained.

“There is growing interest in maintenance-free products that have longer life cycles than before,” Sober said. “We need to offer superior value to the customer with our products – that means a combination of technological features, weight, price, and life cycle cost.”

According to Sober, only so much cost can be taken out of a product, because the price for materials and the labor to build it will keep going up. So the key, Sober said, is to give better overall value to the product and to add in that value faster than the customer needs it.

Sober said that winning the Baldridge award is going to help the company illustrate its dedication to its customers in the next few years.

“Actions speak louder than words and what this award confirms is that the customer is important to us,” Sober said. “We went after this award to make sure we are meeting the needs of the trucking industry, because this market is the backbone of the U.S. economy.”