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FreightWaves Truck Talk: Inside job edition

This week we’re looking at the latest at Workhorse Group; new parts and components for Kenworth and Mack heavy-duty trucks; burgeoning growth in Daimler Trucks parts stores; and  the never-ending debate over battery-electric versus hydrogen fuel cells.

Five trucks a day

Workhorse Group (NASDAQ: WKHS) is shooting to build about five of its C-Series electric delivery vans a day this quarter and double production to 10 a day later this year. That’s according to Chief Financial Officer Steve Schrader, interviewed this week by independent stock researcher Simranpal Singh on YouTube. Schrader made life in Union City, Indiana, sound like Elon Musk’s description of “production hell” back in 2018. A COVID outbreak that sidelined 36% of Workhorse employees in November lingers. Add some parts shortages and the fourth-quarter build amounted to “a handful” of trucks. Workhorse will give an official number when it reports Q4 earnings on or around March 12. The goal is to work through a 1,700-unit order backlog this year and then get busy on a 6,320-unit order from Pride Group.

A mini GameStop?

Production woes aside, Workhorse shares are again touching record highs. How come? 

First, President Joe Biden’s declaration that the federal government’s vehicle fleet will be all electric bodes well for Workhorse winning some or all of the oft-delayed United States Postal Service contract for next-generation delivery vehicles. Of the three finalists for what could be a $6 billion purchase, Schrader points out that Workhorse is the only one that tested a battery-electric vehicle for the Postal Service. CNBC’s Michael Wayland reports that 35% of the government’s 645,000 vehicles in 2019 were aging mail haulers from Grumman Corp. that get about 10 miles per gallon. 

Second, it looks like there is a squeeze on short sellers of Workhorse shares. These are traders who borrow shares betting the stock price will drop. Truck Talk reported two weeks ago that the short volume ratio — the number of shares shorted divided by average daily volumes of shares traded — in Workhorse was nearly 29%. It moved above 30% on Jan. 19, then fell to 13% two days later. It was 17.58% on Thursday, according to Workhorse’s share price peaked at $39.50 on Wednesday before retreating. Were shorts bullied into buying more shares to cover their bets? A stock’s price rises when that happens. Is Workhorse a miniature GameStop without the memes?

Parts is parts

The cushy-riding, long-nosed top-of-the-line Kenworth W990 is now available with the brand’s AG130 front air suspension designed to make the most of performance in linehaul and other duties. Rated at 13,200 pounds, the optional suspension is also available for Kenworth’s T680 and T880 models. … Also under the truck, Mack Trucks is enhancing its standard axle warranty for model year 2022 Mack Anthem, TerraPro, Granite, Pinnacle and LR models. The extended time and mileage coverage speaks the language of fleet managers — total cost of ownership (TCO). Details here.

Dana Inc. (NYSE: DAN) is expanding its family of TM SUMO electric motors and axles. These are targeted for battery-electric, range-extended and fuel cell trucks. How about the Hyliion ERX Hypertruck due for early builds later this year? Dana demurred and the Austin, Texas-based startup didn’t respond whether these components are destined for the ERX. If so, Dana would be close to a full supplier for its hybrid driveline partner, similar to what it is doing in medium-duty electric trucks for Kenworth and Peterbilt.

Storefronts aplenty

Someone forgot to tell the The Alliance Parts brand of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) there is a pandemic. The DTNA unit grew its retail footprint by 55% in 2020 and plans another 50% addition this year. That’s 15 locations in 10 states and Alberta, Canada. Oh, and Alliance added a dozen product lines from grilles and fenders to Series 60 engine components. … Meanwhile, Kenworth is adding 60 new officially licensed goods from hoodies to bottle openers to travel tumblers

Potato chips and half-empty Amazon boxes

Toward the end of a media conference call on Tuesday announcing a Navistar-led four-way collaboration on hydrogen fuel cell trucking, the age-old debate of hydrogen-powered fuel cells versus battery-electric powertrains came up. Andrew Hawkins of The Verge channeled Musk’s criticisms of fuel cells as “incredibly dumb, extremely silly, mindboggingly stupid.” GM’s executive director of global fuel cell business Charlie Freese acknowledged both have a role in trucking. “Battery electric is a great tool for certain applications where you can afford the type of recharging that’s required and you’re moving payloads that are not going to be compromised by the mass of the propulsion system. But if you start to go in and have heavy payloads, not potato chips and half-empty Amazon boxes, but moving heavy fluids and things that weigh a lot, that’s where you don’t want to compromise the vehicle,” Freese said.

Finally, a best guess on Peterbilt’s reveal next Wednesday

Peterbilt will be the first to reveal what PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR) CEO Preston Feight said this week will be “some big introductions that we think will be really helpful to our company growth.” The video on YouTube and Facebook sure looks like the flagship 579 model, last redesigned in 2012. Throw in the Model 579EV for good measure.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.


F3: Future of Freight Festival


The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.