Alex Kholb understood when his salesman told him delivery of the Western Star 5700EX he ordered in July was delayed from November to January. After all, the current supply chain crisis is inconveniencing everybody in some way.
But Kholb was incensed when the dealership called a week ago to tell him his order had been canceled with no substitute equipment offered and no incentive or priority on a future order. He would get back the $1,500 deposit on the $165,000 tractor.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute. You guys really screwed us over here because I can’t go to any company right now and get a truck delivered in January,’” Kholb told Freightwaves.
The situation puts a face on the imbalance of supply and demand, much of it blamed on a pandemic-fueled shortage of semiconductors critical to numerous operations from safety systems to power windows. Dozens of other parts and components also are in short supply, leading to dire near-term projections from equipment manufacturers.
“Our order book is at a level we haven’t seen ever before,” Jochen Goetz, CFO of Daimler Truck & Bus, told analysts last Friday in a Q3 earnings call.
It is unclear who ordered Kholb’s cancelation — Daimler Trucks North America or its dealer, Premier Truck Group of Dallas. It is unclear how many orders were canceled.
“I really love Daimler,” Kholb said. “We think it’s a great company. They make quality products. If this was a normal market, I would have zero complaints.”
End of the line for the 5700XE
A number of factors add confusion to what happened.
DTNA is ending production of the Western Star 5700 XE at the end of the year. A replacement model, likely adopting the X-Series nomenclature of the recent Western Star 49X and 47X off-highway trucks, will replace it. Daimler declined to comment on the name or timing of a replacement, saying it does not discuss future products.
“DTNA has elected to discontinue production of the Western Star 5700 XE, [at] the end of the 2021 calendar year,” spokesman Fred Ligouri said. “Since 2015, the 5700 XE successfully answered the market need for the previously unaddressed premium on-highway segment, and Western Star will continue to serve that segment and our valued customers well into the future.”
A photo of a lightly camouflaged on-highway truck with a grill resembling the 49X was posted on Facebook a few weeks ago.The Western Star badge was clearly visible.
Kholb’s July 12 purchase order is for a 2022 5700XE, which Daimler began selling around midyear. DTNA communicated to dealers in June it was the last year for the 5700XE. Manufacturers typically begin selling the next model year of a truck in the prior year, so sales of 2022 models in 2021 are standard practice.
On May 14, JP Massaro, who drives for Hutchinson Trucking in Salt Lake City, posted a 15-minute video review of the 2022 model on YouTube. Massaro told FreightWaves he has heard reports of other 2022 orders being canceled. A Facebook group for the 5700XE speculates about a 57X replacement.
“We are always watching and adding to the family where it makes sense,” Samantha Parlier, DTNA vice president of vocational market development, told FreightWaves in a September interview.
‘You’ve got to finish the job’
That doesn’t help Kholb, whose family started AKA Trucking in Southampton, Pennsylvania, with one used truck in 2014. AKA hauls general merchandise in dry vans.
“I understand they are phasing it out, but you’ve got to finish the job when you take the order,” Kholb said.
AKA Trucking, Kholb said, has five trucks with five drivers and six more managed by owner-operators running under AKA’s authority. So it is a small player with scant leverage to navigate an equipment shortage.
AKA scoured the country before finding the 5700XE available at Premier, a DTNA franchise, Kholb said. Volvo Truck North America told AKA in June that it could not deliver a Class 8 truck until the first quarter of 2022. Premier offered a November delivery date.
“We were like, ‘That’s great, let’s do it. Let’s make it happen,’” Kholb said. A month later, the delivery date slipped to January 2022. “I said, ‘It’s fine.The supply chain is messed up.”
Nowhere to go
When the 5700XE order was canceled, Kholb speculated another company might have snatched it for more money, unscrupulous but not out of the question in an equipment capacity-starved environment.
“I called Volvo when I heard the news and they said the earliest we’d get [a truck] is probably 2023.”
Separately, AKA ordered two Freightliner Cascadias a month ago. The delivery date is Q4 of 2022.
Would backfilling with a used model make sense?.
“We have three 2019 Freightliners. We paid $135,000 [each] back then,” he said. “Taylor & Martin Auctions sold one for $135,000 — with 400,000 miles. It’s insane.”
‘Painful decision for any OEM’
While Daimler wouldn’t comment, the company may be winding down the low-volume 5700XE early to use microchips and other components common with Freightliner Cascadias built on the same production line in Cleveland, North Carolina. The 5700XE is an upscale version of the market-leading on-highway Cascadia.
“If it is the case that things like this are happening, it would be a painful decision for any OEM to make, as it risks the loss of relationships that have been nurtured over years and decades,” Kenny Vieth, president and senior analysts of ACT Research, told FreightWaves.
With large customers desperately waiting for trucks, small fleets go to the back of the line.
“You can call any dealer,” Kholb said. “They are going to think you are crazy if you even think about getting a truck anytime soon. All I hope is that whoever made this decision thought about [what the] impact of the decision would be.”