Citing a shift in the marketplace, heavy equipment manufacturer CNH Industrial announced on Sept. 3 that it is planning to spin-off of its on-road commercial truck business unit from its agricultural and construction equipment brands. 

The owner of the popular Case Construction Equipment and New Holland brands, CNH Industrial is a leading global manufacturer of equipment. The company reported $14 billion in revenue for the first half of 2018, a roughly 5.4% decline from the same period in 2018. Under its proposed plan to split its business units by next year, the company expects to take a one-time charge of up to $500 million. CNH Industrial stock fell 3% after the plan was announced on Sept. 3, but recovered in trading the following day.

There were a number of factors driving the split, including a growing divergence in on-road and off-road emissions standards, says Hubertus Mühlhäuser, CEO of CNH Industrial. The company’s on-road business unit will include its Iveco line of commercial trucks and its Fiat Powertrain Technologies business. All of CNH Industrial's units will be slimmed down somewhat, and the company expects to reduce the global footprint of its facilities, including factories, by 1.2 million square feet over the next five years. Mühlhäuser declined to elaborate on the location or timeline of where or when these closures will occur. 

According to senior company executives, the spin-off reflects a growing realization that the conglomerate's broad holdings were not always blending well. As Mühlhäuser sees it, the company was finding few crossover benefits between its on-road and off-road business units. “We saw low investment synergies in automation, digitization and servitization, while only alternate propulsion struck us as the major synergistic area between on- and off-highway,” he told investors and trade press at a presentation at the New York Stock Exchange on Sept. 3.

The newly formed on-highway business has not yet been named, and a leadership team is expected to be named in the first half of 2020. The use of “alternative propulsion” or alternative fuels, was a major theme of the company’s presentation on Sept. 3. The Case CE "Project Tetra" concept wheel loader, running off of natural gas, was on display outside the NYSE during the presentation. Mühlhäuser says LNG and CNG systems will be a major focus for both the on-road and off-road businesses in the future, as the company foresees increasingly restrictive emissions regimes for gas and diesel engines in major markets.

CNH Industrial also announced that it is making a $250 million investment in electric and fuel-cell-powered truck-maker Nikola. The startup is planning a line of hydrogen fuel-cell-powered on-road trucks for medium and heavy-duty applications. The newly spun-off on-road business will continue this relationship with Nikola, according to Mühlhäuser. After the spin-off, new developments in alternative fuels by the on-road business may also find their way to the off-road brands, he adds.


For Construction, High Ambition and Some Belt Tightening

For the construction equipment side of the company's business, the outlook was a bit more sobering. CNH Industrial announced broad plans to dramatically increase its revenue and sales in the construction sector, but not before significantly reducing the number of models it offers and cutting the size of its dealer network.

Carl Gustaff Göransson, president of CNH Industrial’s construction unit, says that it will be discontinuing 44 out of the 172 models of machines that the company’s construction brands offer, and will be reducing the number of dealers in North America and Europe by 25% over the next five years. This would be offset by a planned 10% growth of dealers in the rest of the world.

Mühlhäuser tells ENR that despite the severe reduction in equipment model offerings, CNH Industrial’s companies will not be exiting any product categories and will continue to support existing machines. "We will eliminate the variance and not so much the product lines. There are some smaller product lines, but I will not mention those here," he says. "It's going to have a positive impact [on overall equipment sales]. Some people think if you prune your product lines you have to lose sales, but it's quite the contrary."

"We see the construction industry further consolidating in the coming years," Göransson says. As CNH Industrial completes the split of its on-road and off-road businesses, there are also opportunities for greater overlap in the construction and agriculture units, he notes. The company currently has 40% overlap in its dealer network between agriculture and construction, and roughly 15% to 20% in common parts between the two in manufacturing. This overlap between the company's construction and agricultural equipment will likely increase, as well as the development of common systems for telematics and digital services.

All of this is intended as a springboard to drive a new wave of growth. Göransson says that CNH Industrial's construction unit plans to grow its annual net sales from a current $3 billion to $4.6 billion by 2024. This would be driven by not only the condensed product lineup and simplified supply and production chains, but growth in new markets, he says. 

CNH Industrial has set several ambitious sales targets despite possible obstacles. The company has already cited trade wars and tariffs as a driving factor for a decline in year-over-year revenue in the first half of 2019, and with the construction market now peaking in the U.S. and Europe the five-year outlook calls for significant growth in other markets. "The bulk of our business is in North America, with the market now at its peak," observes Göransson. As the U.S. and Europe cools, Göransson says the company will look to growth in India and China to offset a possible drop in revenue in its traditional markets. 

Mühlhäuser tells ENR there is more than enough potential growth in these other markets to offset a cyclical downturn in U.S. and European construction. "India is part of that, and right now there is still growth there. Also, we see it coming from South America, and we are one of the largest players [there]."