Focus on Electric Vehicles Takes Front and Center
By Tod Trousdell
While this year’s Work Truck Show seemed to forgo any specific theme, the week’s proceedings left little doubt in anyone’s mind about the real focus of this year’s convention.
Electrification and electric vehicles.
From manufacturers eager to showcase new models, to allied service providers anxious to prove their EV readiness, it was impossible to wander more than a few feet around the Indianapolis Convention Center without swallowing a heaping helping of all things electric.
Interested in the latest electric vehicles? There were scores of them in all shapes and sizes.
Hoping to extend delivery range with lighter racking? Upfitters were more than ready to show you how.
Looking for someone to manage the whole process? The fleet management companies were ready to explain how electric vehicles will be your new normal.
No matter where one turned, EVs and EV-themed solutions were front and center.
Perhaps most encouraging, attendance was robust. And attendees were excited and engaged. All good signs that hopefully the challenges of the last two years are receding, and that the trucking, fleet, and vehicle spaces have their best days ahead.
But while everyone was keen to talk all things EV, very few attendees were making bold predictions or definitive proclamations. Instead, concerns around range, charging and costs dominated conversations. In fact, many of the attendees I spoke with reminded me of the early days of the Internet, when everyone was eager to make predictions, but no one could say for sure where things were headed.
Even so, just about everyone in attendance certainly tried their best to be EV-centric.
OEMs were on hand, with Ford and its Ford Pro booth dominating the landscape. Likely the biggest booth at the show, Ford Pro positions Ford as focused on all things EV. From vehicles, to charging to thought leadership, the booth offered a panoramic look at Ford’s vision for the future.
Toyota and GM were well represented and in addition to legacy OEMs, EV makers like Rivian and Lion Electric featured impressive booths.
FMCs also made a notable – if not understated presence. That included Wheels Donlen, Element Fleet Management, and Merchant’s Fleet, which has been an early and active proponent of EVs with initiatives like its EV partnership with McLaren Racing.
“It was exciting to be back in person to connect with our clients and supplier partners,” Wohlever said. “We were encouraged by the positive comments about the new opportunities the Wheels/Donlen merger offers, and proud of having over 725 years of combined truck consulting experience.”
Work truck upfitters also attended the show in big numbers, with Knapheide sporting its usual massive booth, and Reading, Adrian Steel, Ranger, and Masterack also making impressive showings.
One person who felt the excitement at this year’s show was Jon Toups, CEO of Masterack. A long-time exhibitor and attendee, Toups said he could literally see how excited attendees were after missing out on last year’s show due to Covid restrictions. “Everyone seemed genuinely thrilled to have the opportunity to re-connect with their peers and we were encouraged by the conversations we had with visitors to our booth,” said Toups.
Peter Young, VP of Business Development at Ranger Design, said the Canadian company was highly focused on electrification and had worked hard to ensure it was “EV Ready today,” and “not just working to satisfy demand down the road.”
“We know that our customers have a lot of questions around integrating EVs, not just at some unknown date in the future, but today,” said Young.
Young said those solutions focus on helping fleets “regain their range” by utilizing Ranger’s lightweight solutions, including products made with carbon fiber that are as much as 80% lighter than steel.
One corner of the industry that was also well represented at the conference was vehicle remarketing, with several long-standing providers either exhibiting or attending.
Bill Bishop, SVP of Sales and Marketing at FLD, said his team was “pleasantly surprised” by the robust nature of the show and heartened by the fact that attendees were interested, engaged and eager to stop by their booth. And while it may be years before electric vehicles are remarketed, he said the 40+ year-old company had been working diligently to both better understand the dynamics of remarketing EVs, and to formulate best practices around remarketing them.
“Electrification is reaching critical mass across the (fleet) space,” Bishop said. “Because of that, our team is focused on having a plan in place to remarket electric vehicles even before they’re widely available.”
“This year’s show was such a reminder of how wonderful this industry can be,” said Debbie Struna,” a sales exec with Fleet Street Remarketing. “The events were great. The networking was better, and it was so nice to experience this kind of camaraderie after two tough years away.”
Fleet managers – the main focus of exhibitors – were also plentiful. Joe Lukacs, the Director of Global Fleet Operations for Sherwin Williams, summed up the thoughts of many with positive comments on how the conference played out.
“As anticipated, NTEA did not disappoint,” said Lukacs. “For one thing, it was great to see everyone back together in the convention type atmosphere, and it was exciting to see that electric vehicles made such a big splash at this year’s show.”
Tod Trousdell is an independent market consultant with more than 30 years’ experience. He works with a number of fleet entities as well as major corporations in hospitality, sports, cable, and travel. You can reach him at [email protected].