Mexico Begins Changing Old Trucks into New

The program to junk as many old cargo trucks as possible received a dramatic presentation in Mexico City at the end of May with the ceremonial destruction of an old 1977 rickety, polluting truck. A giant crane lifted the rig, and then let it crash to the ground again and again until there was only wreckage. Those in attendance wildly applauded.

“I’m happy because the government never gave us anything but it is now helping us to improve,” said the truck’s owner, Manuel Gonzales. In exchange for his destroyed vehicle, Gonzalez is buying a brand new Navistar International truck.

Present at the ceremony were the representatives of Daimler Chrysler from Germany, AB Volvo from Sweden and several American companies, including Freightliner, Navistar International Corp. and Kenworth of PACCAR Inc. Controversial trucking leader Elias Dip -- who runs a Teamster-like organization called the National Confederation of Transporters (Conatran) with an estimated membership of 300,000 members (mostly one truck owners) – was happy for a change and not critical of the government at the moment.

“This is a win-win policy,” he said. “The truck manufacturers will win because their sales will go up. The carriers win because this will improve their working conditions.” It is not yet known how many owners of old trucks will join the fold, but manufacturing companies hope for a flood as sales have been slow with just 7,756 trucks sold between January and April, 11% below 2003 sales for the same period.

“We believe this old truck junking program can increase our sales by as much as 50%,” hopes market leader Daimler Chrysler CEO for Mexico, Jose Vieira. “Growth will come from the replacement of old units and not from market growth,” he said. Volvo director, Carl Heikel, estimated that sales for his firm could rise by as much as 20% thanks to the junking program. Volvo has the lowest expectation of sales hikes. Getting rid of old vehicles is not mandatory, but manufacturers hope that one-truck owners like Manuel Gonzalez will take advantage of the program. It also facilitates payment through low government-sponsored interest rates and high volume.

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