As Class 8 market booms, Rush working to expand medium-duty, aftermarket reach

Rush Enterprises Chairman, President and CEO Rusty Rush speaks Tuesday at the 2018 Rush Enterprises Tech Skills Rodeo in San Antonio.

Growth potential in medium-duty truck sales and aftermarket parts and service is creating optimism for Rush Enterprises into 2019 and beyond, said Chairman, President and CEO Rusty Rush during a press briefing Tuesday at the 2018 Rush Enterprises Tech Skills Rodeo in San Antonio.

With one of the strongest Class 8 new truck sales years in recent memory coming to a close, Rush said he believes the heavy-duty market will maintain its vitality through the early part of 2019 but was unwilling to predict this year’s sales wave will sustain itself for another 12 months or longer. Which isn’t to say Rush is bearish on the Class 8 market, just watchful of a rising vehicle supply and aware of the fact that when the market eventually does turn sour, it will hit the heavy-duty market the strongest.

“This industry is cyclical,” he says.

The relative stability of medium-duty sales and the growth of last-mile and pickup and delivery freight is driving Rush’s optimism in that section of the market, he said. By representing six medium-duty OEMs (Peterbilt, International, Ford, Hino, Isuzu and Mitsubishi Fuso), Rush said he believes the Rush Truck Center dealer channel is uniquely positioned to succeed in supplying all segments of the medium-duty space — regardless of truck size, design or powertrain.

On the latter point, Rush said while his business remains engaged in discussions with customers about their interest in non-diesel powertrains, the company also relies heavily on its OEM partners to navigate and understand how the medium- and heavy-duty market may change.

Touching briefly on the new hybrid and electric truck manufacturers operating on the fringe of the marketplace, Rush said he believes the current OEM community “will win in the end” by introducing a product offering that allows customers to pick the engine configuration and power generation options they would prefer any new truck purchase.

Rush and COO Michael McRoberts also are incredibly optimistic about how Rush Enterprises has evolved and positioned itself to compete in the aftermarket parts and service space. McRoberts said 18 months ago Rush Truck Centers introduced an aftermarket sales representative sales force to promote all Rush product lines and service across the company’s 110 dealer locations. Behind the 300-plus employee team, Rush said the company has posted double-digit parts sales growth six quarters in a row.

And the duo said more growth potential remains. McRoberts said the company continues to expand its aftermarket parts inventory to include all-makes products lines and is outfitting its service centers with diagnostic and service tools to maintain and repair all medium- and heavy-duty OEM badges. Additionally, regional customer calls centers are enabling the company to respond to 98 percent of phone submitted parts orders in four rings or less, a number McRoberts said should be pushed to 99 percent possibly as early as next year.

Rush described the company’s aftermarket efforts as “focused leverage” — taking advantage of a nearly national footprint to proactively serve existing customers and showcase comprehensive solutions to prospective customers running other OEM equipment.

“In the past our truck dealerships were like a hospital. We only fixed things when they were broke,” Rush said. “Now, we are seeing the opportunity to do more.”

Written by Lucas Deal, editor of Successful Dealer and Trucks, Parts & Service, partner publications of Hard Working Trucks.