Last Thursday’s (March 2) surprise federal raid on three Caterpillar offices in the US threatened to overshadow a press conference at ConExpo in Las Vegas yesterday (March 7), with national media, from CNBC to The Wall Street Journal, clamoring for comment. But new CEO Jim Umpleby dealt swiftly with questions and was able to steer the focus towards new technology and hopes for the future.
Umpleby (left) referred to the raids, thought to be related to the company’s tax affairs, in his opening remarks, which were repeated to several journalists during the question and answer session later. “We were surprised by this because we had been cooperating with requests for information by authorities,” he said. “We are cooperating and will continue to act in good faith and as a good corporate citizen. The unexpected events were difficult for our employees but they are Caterpillar employees and they responded with integrity. They clearly demonstrated that we are company built on values. They also went back to business as soon as they could. I’m very proud of our 100,000 employees around the world.”
Umpleby even found time later to praise the Trump administration. President Trump himself has been a vocal supporter of the Caterpillar business. “We are very encouraged by the dialogue with the new administration on a variety of pro-growth policies,” said Umpleby. “Whether it be investing in infrastructure, sensible regulatory reform, tax reform we’re very encouraged by that dialogue that is occurring and we look forward to continue to participating with those discussions.” On the subject of border taxes Umpleby added, “We are in favour of pro-growth policies that facilitate trade and also the growth of manufacturing in the US.”
Turning to the ConExpo event itself Umpleby was excited and forward looking. “Caterpillar has once again pulled out all the stops at ConExpo,” he said. “We are showcasing more than 40 machines across 60,000 sq ft. We are welcoming our customers and visitors to more than just our exhibits we are welcoming them to an entirely new age where machines talk to machines, and where those voices mean better productivity than ever before. We are welcoming them to the age of ‘smart iron’.”
“Although we see positive signs in some of our markets, the global economic outlook is still uncertain. But Caterpillar is not waiting for external factors to decide our future. We’ve invested significantly in research and development especially in digital technologies, and that will continue. We are committed to digital solutions like Cat Connect, which will help our customers get their job done. With our solutions they can connect with not only Caterpillar equipment but to other equipment in their fleet as well.”
Bob De Lange, group president of Caterpillar (right), later added, “Cat Connect hardware and software gives customers the ability to connect all assets on a job site, regardless of brand. Our new Link technologies connect a customer’s entire fleet, something no other machine manufacturer can do today”
“We are excited to be unveiling new models here at ConExpo. We have eight machines making their first public appearance. They represent our excavator, wheel loader, articulated truck and telehandler product lines, along with new paving cold planers.”