Just one week into his new job as president of Wabash National, Bill Greubel met with local and national media representatives to provide a glimpse of how America’s largest trailer manufacturer will return to profitability.
With first-quarter shipments of only 5,500 trailers (half the total from the a year ago), Greubel knows he has his work cut out for him.
“We hit a pretty deep trough, and it’s getting worse in the trailer industry,” he said. “Once we get our house in order, we can grow the business. And we are not looking for 5% growth—we are looking for great improvement.”
One area of growth may come from mid-size fleets. The corporate office has sold huge orders to America’s largest fleets, and the local Wabash dealers are serving the customers who buy one trailer at a time. The company sees a substantial gap in the middle that it has not adequately served.
Greubel outlined a four-point program by which he will operate:
1. Make the numbers (for banks and bondholders).
2. Operational excellence. “We have to be better than the other guy,” Greubel said.
3. Grow the business. This will come after Wabash “gets its house in order.”
4. Focus on the customer.
Greubel said he will set some rather narrow priorities, working only on the critical issues first.
“This is always Plan A, and we won’t move from that,” he said. “If a problem doesn’t make the top five, we probably won’t work on it.”
Wabash is beginning to see signs of a turnaround in the trailer market, Greubel said. The company is receiving orders from what Greubel describes as “the more profitable fleets,” and the backlog is beginning to grow.
The market, however, is not growing so fast that Wabash desires to acquire any of the manufacturing capacity of HPA Monon, a major manufacturer in nearby Monon, Indiana, that recently ceased production.
“We have no interest in HPA Monon,” Greubel said. “We have $400 million in long-term debt that we have a responsibility to pay. It is our goal to speed up the rate at with which pay back that debt.”