Ron Armstrong

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on Friday, January 16, 2015 at 5:09 PM PST

On January 14th, Ron Armstrong, CEO of PACCAR, participated in the Albers Executive Speaker Series.  The title of his talk was "Global Success for the Long Haul," addressing both the long standing consistent operating success of the company and how it has positioned itself as a global player over the last decade.

In case you do not already know, PACCAR is a global technology leader in the design, manufacture and customer support of high-quality light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF brands, and, of course, PACCAR has always been a strong supporter of SU, as the naming of the PACCAR Atrium suggests! 

Armstrong was appointed CEO of PACCAR Inc. this past April. Prior to that, he served as President beginning in 2011 and also was appointed Principal Financial Officer that same year.  Previously, he served as Executive Vice President of Financial Services and has held a variety of finance and accounting positions since joining the firm in 1995.

Armstrong noted that PACCAR has been around for 110 years, beginning as a manufacturer of rail and logging equipment.  It got its start in producing trucks by purchasing Kenworth in 1945, followed by the purchase of Peterbilt in 1958.  In 1996 it purchased DAF and that really launched its move into the global heavy-duty truck market.  To that point, today over 50% of its sales are overseas and that share is continuing to grow.  It is also the world's sixth largest heavy-duty truck producer.

When asked what will be the biggest developments in the truck market over the next 5 to 10 years, Armstrong mentioned two.  The first is connectivity and second is fuel efficiency.  Connectivity is becoming increasingly important for the efficient operation of truck fleets, so it is highly valued by customers and becoming more sophisticated.  And while fuel prices have dropped recently, the longer run trend is that fuel is expensive and many businesses are anxious to lower their carbon footprint, so fuel efficiency is demanded by the market.

On the issue of how to build products to minimize environmental impact, Armstrong stressed that the company has to be prepared to meet market demands but cannot lead the market.  In other words, it would not be wise to provide products with lower environmental impact that customers will not buy.  Or, as he put it, "You can't sell a Euro 6 truck in a Euro 4 market."  Nevertheless, they are doing the research now to be ready to meet the environmental specifications that will emerge in the future.

He was asked what advice he wished he had received when he started his career, and the first thing he said was, "Go for it!" meaning put 110% into what you do, exceed expectations, and take opportunities to learn outside of your specific areas of expertise.

Some of the things he looks to see in people, beyond their technical competence, include good communication skills, listening skills, a strong work ethic, discipline, respect for others, and engagement.  He also noted that given the increasing globalization of the economy, one needs experience with global markets and to understand some of the differences between the US market and other economies.

PACCAR does not have a strong brand, as most people outside of Seattle would not know the company controls the Kenworth, Peterbilt, and DAF brands.  There are plans to change that a bit, but when asked about PACCAR's low profile, Armstrong said he was very comfortable with that.  It allows them to focus on the business and achieve the consistent performance they have experienced over many years.

It was a terrific opportunity for our students to hear and learn from the new PACCAR CEO.  Ron Armstrong is a great role model for them and they were fortunate to be part of one of his first public speaking events as the CEO!