Market pressures and the role of the vehicle technician

For the most part, only in North American can truck users spec engines, transmissions, axles and so on, and then have the truck OEM assemble this componentry.   However, there is a creeping vertical integration in North American truck manufacturing.   The model is changing from assembly of a wide diversity of components to a more structured and integrated whole, where more of the components and systems are captive to the manufacturer. And that means options for the customer are becoming more and more limited.   In Europe, truck OEMS are vertically integrated. The brand of truck comes with its own driveline and components.   Truck dealers there are owned by the manufacturer, which tends to make the truck captive to its manufacturer. Technicians typically apprentice at a dealership and then spend their whole career there, honing their expertise on that brand.   The case could be made, therefore, that truck technicians here in North America are “smarter” than their counterparts in Europe.   In North America, because of the strong preference for vehicle spec’ing, technicians have to be trained to work on a much wider range of components and systems in order to support all of the brands serviced.   In an address to the TMC’ s recent Fall Meeting, Susan Alt, vice president, customer relations, Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks North America, said the concept of vertical integration is becoming a reality here as a result of market conditions and cost increases.   By way of example, she pointed to the huge developments to OEMs for having various drivetrain and component options, as well to meet EPA emissions regulations and to prepare for the new truck braking rules that cut stopping distances, the requirement for onboard diagnostics and looming greenhouse gas emission regulations.   Alt noted that vertical integration is being helped along by globalization, as more and more manufacturers develop “world” platforms for their vehicles with increasingly captive components such as engines, transmissions and axles.   Spec’ing options will continue to decrease, she predicted.   For OEMs, by concentrating efforts toward vertical integration with select suppliers, strategic bodybuilders, dealers and other value-added service providers, they could obtain an advantage in specific areas.   At the same time, vehicles are becoming increasingly complex, requiring advanced diagnostic equipment and detailed OEM repair instructions, which the manufacturers are not keen on sharing with fleet and independent shops. And this OEM captivity has lead to the Right to Repair movement.   Want I am curious about is the impact on vehicle technicians as truck OEMs get further and further along with vertically integrating.