ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — AM General premiered a truck concept at a Middle Eastern defense exhibition this week that it never plans to sell.
But that's because the company wants to sell trucks to countries around the world based on individual requirements, essentially trucks that have yet to be dreamt up, Nguyen Trinh told Defense News at Abu Dhabi's International Defense Exhibition. The company doesn't just want to build it, sell it and walk away, but to establish manufacturing, supply chains and life-cycle logistics in country.
The Multi-Purpose Truck concept starts with a military-grade rolling chassis taken from technology used in 300,000 AM General Humvees sold to 60 countries around the world. And because it's a commercial chassis, the company can circumvent the arduous and lengthy foreign military sales process normally used to sell U.S. military equipment to the rest of the world.
Then a country can design an entire truck around the chassis.
The company's slogan for the new concept is "Your Country. Your Truck," which speaks to the idea that AM General wants to be seen not just as a truck manufacturer but "a global vehicle solutions provider," Trinh said.
Less than two years ago, when AM General lost its bid in the U.S. Army's Joint Light Tactical Vehicle competition to Oshkosh, it didn't protest the decision like Lockheed Martin.
Instead, AM General said such a protest would be a distraction from its current growth business areas, "including meeting the significant and future needs of our customers in the United States and around the world."
Turning straight back to the global market with JLTV lessons-learned in tow, AM General said it developed the concept by talking to customers abroad.
"A couple of things that resonated with the majority of the customers," Trinh said, "number one, everyone wants to buy U.S. made products," which poses export challenges.
So AM General decided it could sell its commercially available light tactical vehicle chassis and design and build from there.
And "number two, industrialization and local content is really becoming more important, especially here in the Middle East," Trinh said.
On Monday at IDEX, U.S. commercial sales officers working in various Middle Eastern countries stressed the importance of building their own domestic manufacturing and technology development, not just performing final assembly work for equipment purchased abroad.
AM General found countries desired "cutting edge technology and building up their industrial base," Trinh said.
The strategy is for AM General to sell the chassis and then help countries design a new vehicle around it, then guide them through establishing proper manufacturing, as well as long-term logistics trails, which is made possible because the company owns the technology data packages to proceed in such a way.
"We own all the tooling, we own all the TDP, from a value proposition AM General brings that," Trinh said. And it also solves the issues many encounter after buying equipment, which is unpredictably losing second and third tier manufactured parts -- a sore spot for foreign buyers.
"It’s a long-term plan," he said. "Not a ‘hey, we will sell you 1,000 of these and do a few things and then we are gone.'"
Trinh said AM General is blanketing all regions -- Latin America, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific, Europe and parts of Africa -- in its effort to show countries what is in the realm of the possible for multi-purpose military trucks.
The MPT on display at IDEX was specifically showcasing a possible configuration for a Middle East country, featuring high mobility, armor protection against mine and missile threats and the ability to operate unhindered by heat and soft, sandy soil.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.