By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
Late last month, UD Truck of North America announced its withdrawal from the North American market, effective for 2013. Reasons cited included a shrinking market for their cab over engine (COE) class 3 – 7 medium duty products and the increasing costs of safety and emissions compliance.
Another important but unmentioned factor is the company’s lack of any North American manufacturing capacity. All of their products are imported from Asia and the current strength of the Yen and other currencies worked against the import business model.
UD – for “Uniflow Diesel” – began as a subsidiary of Nissan Diesel America in 1984. Their early products earned a reputation for ruggedness, reliability and ease of repair in the U.S. market. As with almost all trucks in these classes, the cab-and-chassis base vehicle could be configured for a variety of standard uses including small reefers, cargo and delivery boxes, stake-bodies, dump bodies, liquid tanks and so on, plus specialty and less standard uses as well.
The company continued to upgrade the lines and introduced new truck and engine technologies through the early 2000s including electronic common rail fuel systems and variable nozzle turbocharging.
In 2007, Nissan Diesel was purchased by AB Volvo and became a subsidiary of that company. But both companies were severely affected by the 2008 business downturn, and UD’s North American sales never recovered to any notable level. Last year’s sales were roughly one quarter of 2005’s volume.
The company’s letter to its dealers said that there are about 300 new trucks remaining in UD inventory and that orders for 2013 vehicles will be accepted for anything that can be built before year’s end.
UD’s pull-out leaves the COE market to the Class 6 and 7 trucks from Kenworth and Peterbilt, while the market for lighter classes and purpose-bodied “vocational vehicles” falls back to the perennial players including Mitsubishi Fuso, Hino, Isuzu and others.
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