FREIGHTLINER, parent company of Freightliner, Sterling, and Western Star Trucks, and Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation recently announced programs for new and used truck financing. The announcements were made during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

Effective upon the announcement, Freightliner offered buyers a choice of two interest rates for new truck purchases — 8.75% or 7.99%, both for a maximum of 60 months. The rates apply to select new 2000 and 2001 model year Class 8 tractors in dealer inventory as of February 28, 2001. For those choosing the 8.75% rate, Freightliner will pay $100 on each of the first 12 payments to help offset fuel prices or other expenses during the first year of ownership.

This program only applies to stock tractors in dealer inventory and only applies to purchases financed through Mercedes-Benz Credit. Special interest rates apply to the base tractor. Other purchases will be financed at prevailing interest rates, resulting in a blended total rate.

Six New Programs

For purchasers of used trucks, Freightliner announced six programs to protect the residual value of trucks, to protect the investment of used truck customers, and to increase the demand for high value, late model used vehicles. Freightliner said it had created a new finance operation called FASTruck in partnership with Mercedes-Benz Credit. This program is for first-time owner-operators or other customers that do not fit a typical borrowing profile. FASTruck is designed to match credit and credit terms with the reality of trucking and used truck buyers.

In conjunction with FASTruck, Freightliner and Mercedes-Benz Credit will open a network of remarketing centers throughout North America. These centers will concentrate on sales of repossessed vehicles and those returned from leases. The purpose is to move these vehicles through the system quickly. The remarketing centers will target users who are willing to purchase vehicles as-is instead of requiring the extra value added to a used truck by the Freightliner SelecTrucks network. The remarketing centers are seen as a way for financial institutions to avoid taking large numbers of vehicles to auction, thereby, cutting the resale value of all used trucks. Stabilizing used truck values should help protect the investment of all truck buyers, Freightliner said.

In its third initiative, Freightliner announced higher loan amounts for small fleets and established owner-operators. Mercedes-Benz Credit has modified its guidelines to allow truck purchases with lower down payments.

The fourth new program is called Power to Succeed. It is designed to ensure new owner-operators a chance at success as a used truck buyer and later as a purchaser of new trucks. It includes a preventive maintenance package and a suite of other business services aimed at helping owner-operators found a successful business. Program benefits include a down payment of $999, a 24-month, 200,000-mile warranty on major vehicle components, 12-month, 100,000-mile coverage on other components, 10 new tires, a set of new Alliance batteries, a set of relined Meritor brake shoes, a preventive maintenance program that includes six PM services, an education program for first-time buyers, and a comprehensive set of business services.

Along the same lines, experienced small fleets and owner-operators can choose among four SelectOne purchase plans. These include low interest rates for qualified customers, a security package of limited warranties with preventive maintenance programs, a “Go” package for factory-refurbished used trucks, or a “Show” package for factory-refurbished trucks. The low interest rates are the same as the 7.99% or 8.75% offered to purchasers of new stock trucks. Those choosing the higher rate get the same $100 per month for 12 months offered new truck buyers. The special rates are offered only through Mercedes-Benz Credit and are limited to $50,000. Amounts above $50,000 will be financed at prevailing interest rates, resulting in a blended total finance rate.

The security package includes 10 preventive maintenance services, which can be redeemed at all TravelCenters of America/Freightliner ServicePoint locations. “Go” package trucks have been refurbished at the SelecTrucks center and include 10 new tires; new batteries; a remanufactured alternator and starter; newly relined rear brakes; new universal joints; new belts, hoses, and coolant; new drivetrain fluids and filters, two-stage cab polishing and interior detailing, road test, and federal DOT certification. “Show” package trucks for purchasers who value style and appearance include the same preparation as “go” package trucks along with new Imron paint, dual exhausts, and new interior panels.

The fifth new initiative involves reconfiguring used trucks for better sale. For example, Freightliner is converting FLD120 tractors with sleepers to daycabs. Other configuration changes under consideration are shortening the wheelbase or converting raised roof sleepers to mid-roof sleepers.

Finally, Freightliner announced expansion of its SelecTrucks sales network. The company currently operates 36 of these used truck sales centers. By March 2002, the network should have expanded to almost 60 sales centers.