AM General’s high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle (Humvee) is a rugged vehicle widely used across the globe in difficult terrains and weather conditions. The company has recently acquired the Vehicles Production Group of the US, a manufacturer of mobility vehicle for disabled passengers. SP’s Land Forces Editor-in-Chief Jayant Baranwal had a conversation with Thomas R. Douglas, Senior Vice President, Business Development and Strategy, AM General, during the defence and security expo, DSEi, at London. Excerpts:
Jayant Baranwal (SP’s): How do you find the show? How is it appearing to be as a business platform for AM General? Have you met some potential buyers?
Thomas R. Douglas (Douglas): It’s been a very busy show for us, meeting many customers and showcasing different products and services.
We have been talking to both our existing customers as well as new potential customers.
Coming to a show like this is very important to the company. London is centrally located and there are a lot of people from around the world coming to our booth and interacting with our company representatives.
SP’s: Which part of the world apart from the USA is AM General is heavily engaged in right now?
Douglas: The company is engaged in many different regions around the world and that is based on the high demand for our Family of Light Tactical Vehicles and our training and logistics support services. AM General has multiple initiatives going on in South East Asia, the subcontinent of India, South West Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and North Africa.
SP’s: Which countries in Asia are appearing to be the most promising?
Douglas: A wide spectrum of countries ranging from Taiwan, the Phillipines, Malaysia, Singapore to Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand have expressed interest in products from our Family of Light Tactical Vehicles and our training and logistics support services.
SP’s: You have introduced your right hand drive high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle (Humvee). Tell us more about it?
Douglas: Yes, the right-hand drive Humvee was developed two years ago, specifically for the Commonwealth countries with an emphasis on South East Asia and especially India. We have two right-hand drive Humvees that are currently engaged in multiple vehicle trials and demonstrations in which the vehicles did very well meeting or exceeding all requirements and expectations. The Humvee is the “Gold Standard” for light tactical vehicles and AM General is the premier light tactical vehicle producer having produced more than 1.5 million light tactical vehicles, more than 3,00,000 of which are the world renowned Humvee. Building world-class light tactical vehicles is in our DNA. This is what AM General does better than any other vehicle producer around the globe.
SP’s: The modern-day battlefield has changed. Asymmetric warfare is seen predominantly in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world. Asymmetric warfare calls for vehicles which are adaptable, mine resistant, etc. What is your strategy?
Douglas: Innovative technologies represent the core elements of the Humvee. This is what makes it the light tactical vehicle of choice for more than 50 nations. The Modernised Light Tactical Vehicle (MLTV), which we have here on display at DSEi in London, is a sixth-generation Humvee. It has an improved suspension system, a more robust chassis, and can survive significant threats—both ballistics and blasts on the body as well as on the sides of the vehicle body.
SP’s: You call it the sixth-generation vehicle?
Douglas: Yes, the MLTV is basically the sixth-generation of the Humvee that is known around the world. At AM General, we have built more than 3,00,000 HUMVES and more than 1.5 million light tactical vehicles in total. The MLTV incorporates all our expertise and experience in designing, developing and manufacturing light tactical vehicles and delivers it in an outstanding package. It is a bigger truck. What we have done with the HUMVE is evolve and improve it during its more than 25 years of service in over 50 countries taking lessons learned from the battlefield and the commercial automotive industry.
In 1985, AM General began with the most basic Humvee. You can consider that the first Generation of Humvee. The generation two Humvee expanded on the experiences that we had on the firstgeneration Humvee, based on battlefield tested experience gained. Same with third and fourth generation Humvees and now it is in its sixth generation. So all of these experiences that we have gained from designing and producing hundreds of thousands of Humvees, the battlefield experiences, the innovative developments we have incorporated into the vehicle from the commercial automotive sector, have been incorporated into the sixth generation Humvee...the Modernized Light Tactical Vehicle or MLTV.
SP’s: When you said battle-tested, can you refer to some battles?
Douglas: Since its inception in 1985, the Humvee has been involved in every major conflict or disaster/emergency relief operation that the US has engaged in – domestically and internationally. The beauty of this vehicle is that its design is extraordinarily flexible in that it can be configured for a multitude of mission packages to include troop carrier, weapons platform, ambulance, firefighting, law enforcement and border security. All the different Humvee applications have been tested.
SP’s: Which are your target markets for righthand drives and what kind of success you foresee and can you also give some break up of right-hand and left-hand drive sales?
Douglas: Our primary markets for right-hand drive right now are India and South East Asia. Another is Africa and we have received interest from New Zealand. At some point we will take a look at Australia where they have an ongoing vehicle programme. The UK in the early stages of developing the requirements for a programme that will be competed in three to five years and will have a right-hand drive requirement. We think that the righthand drive will represent approximately 30-40 per cent of our sales in the international market. It’s a very big market.
SP’s: Can you give an update of the blast resistant vehicle and have you found global partners for it?
Douglas: Yes, we recently achieved a significant milestone on this programme. On August 22, AM General announced delivery, ahead of schedule, of 22 of the company’s Blast Resistant Vehicle - Off road™ (BRV -O™) to the US Government. These 22 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles included a fourseat variant Combat Tactical Vehicle that supports three different mission package configurations and a two-seat variant Combat Support Vehicle that supports a utility mission package configuration for different mission roles across the full spectrum of military operations. These vehicles are now engaged in a rigorous testing programme by the US Government and a contract decision will be made in the 2015 time frame.
The BRV -O™ represents more than a decade of AM General investment in research, development and testing for this next-generation vehicle for the US Army and Marine Corps. There has been significant interest in the BRV -O by international countries. Australia has expressed an interest in JLTV and we conducted a vehicle demonstration for some of their representatives. Additionally, we have also talked to the UK.
SP’s: Is there any central point of contact for after sales maintenance and spares for your Asian customers?
Douglas: No we do not have a geographically centralised distribution system. We generally work through local partners.
SP’s: Tell us what is latest in AM General?
Douglas: We have been very busy at AM General. Our business development team has been working to secure new production orders at our Military Assembly Plant and we are close to finalising the first of a number of international opportunities which will extend HMMWV production well into the future. Internationally, there is considerable demand for the HMMWV. More than 50 armed forces of other nations use HMMWVs for defence, homeland security and disaster response missions. This includes HMMWVs designed with armoured troop shelters produced for Afghanistan security forces. AM General has also introduced the first true righthand drive HMMWV, not a kit, for more than 70 countries that require that capability – offering the most proven, adaptable, versatile and affordable light tactical vehicle in the world as right-hand drive for the first time. AM General also unveiled another new offering for the international market: the Modernised Light Tactical Vehicle with NATO and European Standard EN-level armor protection that is scalable to meet differing mission requirements.
Additionally, the Department of Defense selected our Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) team for a $64.5-million, Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase contract to produce and deliver 22 Blast Resistant Vehicle – Off road prototypes for government testing. This is the next phase of the acquisition process for this programme that could potentially lead to a multibillion-dollar contract to built tens of thousands of these vehicles.
Also, utilising ground-breaking technologies for greater performance and mission flexibility, AM General’s innovative GMV 1.1 solution for domestic and international rapidly deployable forces demonstrates unmatched power and mobility and is specifically designed to be deployed quickly from inside a C/MH- 47 / CH-53 helicopter. The GMV 1.1 is a platform that can evolve to meet specific operational needs by incorporating a variety of Government Furnished Equipment to meet mission requirements. It has 70 per cent parts commonality with the current HMMWV, which significantly reduces expenses for parts, maintenance and training at a time of increasing pressure on defence budgets.
Additionally, through our Service Parts and Logistics Organization (SPLO), the company continues to support HMMWV re-set and re-cap efforts by working closely with its US Government customer at its depots. The SPLO division also provides the US Government and friendly foreign nations myriad services to include vehicle spare parts and worldwide training and logistics support.
Finally, in September AM General announced it had reached an agreement to purchase The Vehicle Production Group (VPG). VPG is a Michigan-based company that originally developed and manufactured the acclaimed MV-1, the only Americanbuilt vehicle specifically designed from the ground up to meet or exceed the needs of wheelchair passengers and the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Previously, AM General acted solely as the vehicle assembler for VPG. Following this transaction, AM General will own and operate the MV-1 business.
The agreement creates a path to form a new company called “Mobility Ventures LLC”, which will acquire the assets of VPG. Production, sales and product development of the MV-1 is expected to resume in approximately 45 days, with AM General bringing more than 50 years of experience and knowledge in the automotive industry to the benefit of passengers who rely on specialty vehicles such as the MV-1.
Assembly of the vehicles will continue to occur at AM General’s world-class, 6,75,000-square-foot Commercial Assembly Plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, which is fully tooled for the MV-1 and ready to resume vehicle assembly.
The MV-1 is the only vehicle in its class available with a factory-installed cleanburning compressed natural gas fuel option.
SP’s: What is the production capacity for Humvees in a year?
Douglas: While we will not provide specific numbers for our Humvee production capacity, I can say that we have a state-of-the-art, dedicated light tactical vehicle assembly facility that can readily tailor vehicle production rates based on the needs of our domestic and international customers. We are the premiere Light Tactical Vehicle producer in the world and are the only company that can offer our customers this kind of quality and service at an affordable price.