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Louisville Switching Blog

Some thoughts on the 2012 Mid America Truck Show

Posted by Donald Robinson

Mar 28, 2012 3:30:00 PM

Every year I look forward to the Mid America Truck Show held in Louisville, KY. We have been exhibiting there for the last 11 or so years. We spend a lot of time thinking about the upcoming show starting at the close of the current year show. As the show gets closer, the pace picks up and then during the week prior to the show, we are operating at full speed. There are final arrangements to be made. We have trucks to clean and shine and our booth to set up. We almost always have industry associates to welcome to town and with whom we coordinate our plans. Other dealers and factory representatives are always here. We love to work with them and also enjoy some social time with them.

When the show opens we can always count on many friends and customers to stop by and visit with us and discuss the latest trends in the industry. This is always enjoyable. We relive old memories as well as discuss the newest innovations with the Ottawa Trucks. As the days of the show roll on, the satisfying weariness of the pace begins to settle in. By the close of the show on Saturday afternoon, there are some sore feet and tired backs and we get a chance to relax again for a few days before we start thinking about next year’s show.

During the relaxation that follows the end of the show, I always relive the show in my mind and think about the recurring theme that played out in the conversations of our customers. Some years it has been new emission standards that are about to kick in. Other years it has been a slow economy that has affected our customers operating methods. This year had a different theme that encouraged me greatly. As I thought about the conversations carried out in our booth, a common story that we heard was about how the drivers had memories of driving an Ottawa Truck 30 or 35 years ago. These conversations were all contemporaneous in a relaxed and casual setting. We didn’t ask for testimonials, but this is what the drivers wanted to talk about.

The fact is that Ottawa Truck is the original terminal truck. The Ottawa Truck has endured much since the beginning in the late fifties. Many competing brands have come and gone in those years. The Ottawa brand has flourished through all of these times and attempts to unseat it as the premier terminal truck. Even now we see occasional upstarts that claim to be as good as the Ottawa Truck. The Johnny-come-latelies will build a knock off of our truck and then brag about being cheaper. The initial cost is sometimes cheaper but the cost of ownership is never less. Once you have ownership of a truck made by a company that is out of business or no longer making the trucks, then the question is always, where do you get parts and customer support? If the life expectancy of your off brand truck is half of that of an Ottawa Truck, then maybe a small initial savings in purchase price is not as sweet as it seemed at the time.

You can bank on your future with a truck that has proven itself for years and offers the absolute best in service and customer support over the long haul, or take a chance on a knock off brand that may or may not even exist next year.

This is the free market at its best. The strong survive and the weaker brands disappear into the night, taking your hopes for a positive ROI with them. I can think of at least 7 or 8 brands that have taken your hopes with them into the refuse pile of dreams that were based on “We are cheaper to buy” or “We have more glass” or “Our plastic cabs save fuel” or “Our trucks are GREEN” or “Our battery powered trucks are good for 20 minutes before a charge is needed.” Sometimes one of these claims will catch the attention of an unsuspecting buyer and then the disappointment starts to creep into the soul of the buyer as reality sets in.

The Ottawa brand has withstood the test of time. No one has built as many terminal trucks as we have or for as long as we have. The truck of choice is “Made in the USA,” by Americans, in Ottawa, KS. We are here to stay.

What a great show we had this year! It has only been closed for 3 days and I am already looking forward to next year’s show and wondering what common theme that we will be discussing. Well, back to the more mundane tasks that accumulate on my desk while I am out of the office. So long for now.

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