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Allison Transmission Holdings Inc (NYSE:ALSN)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 18, 2021, 8:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for standing by. Welcome to Allison Transmission's Fourth Quarter and Full-Year 2020 Earnings Conference Call. My name is Melissa, and I will be your conference call operator today. [Operator Instructions] After the prepared remarks, the management team from Allison Transmission will conduct a question-and-answer session, and the conference call participants will be given instructions at that time. [Operator Instructions]

I'd now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Ray Posadas, the Company's Managing Director of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Raymond Posadas -- Managing Director of Investor Relations

Thank you, Melissa. Good morning, and thank you for joining us for our fourth quarter and full-year 2020 earnings conference call. With me this morning are Dave Graziosi, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and Fred Bohley, our Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer. As a reminder, this conference call webcast and this morning's presentation are available on the Investor Relations section of our website, allisontransmission.com. A replay of this call will be available through February 25th.

As noted on Slide two of the presentation, many of our remarks today contain forward-looking statements based on current expectations. These forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks, including those set forth in our fourth quarter and full-year 2020 earnings press release, our annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31st, 2019, and our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q for the quarters ended March 31st, 2020; June 30, 2020; and September 30, 2020; uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic and related responses by governments, customers and suppliers, and other factors, as well as general economic conditions. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize or should underlying assumptions or estimates prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those that we express today.

In addition, as noted on Slide three of the presentation, some of our remarks today contain non-GAAP financial measures as defined by the SEC. You can find reconciliations of the non-GAAP financial measures to the most comparable GAAP measures attached as an appendix to the presentation and to our fourth quarter and full-year 2020 earnings press release.

Today's call is set to end at 8:45 a.m. Eastern Time. In order to maximize participation opportunities on the call, we'll take one question from each analyst.

Please turn to Slide four of the presentation for the call agenda. During today's call, Dave Graziosi will provide you with a brief operational update; Fred Bohley will then review our fourth quarter financial performance and introduce full-year 2021 guidance. Finally, Dave will conclude the prepared remarks prior to commencing the Q&A.

Now I'll turn the call over to Dave Graziosi.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Ray. Good morning, and thank you for joining us. Before I begin the operational update, I would like to mention our announcement earlier this week that Larry Dewey has notified Allison's Board of Directors of his decision to not stand for reelection at our 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the entire Allison organization, we are extremely grateful for Larry's leadership and dedication to the company. I would also like to personally thank Larry for his mentoring and guidance as I have transitioned into the CEO position. In recognition of Larry's many years of service, the Board of Directors has named him to the honorary position of Chairman Emeritus of the Board following the 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders.

I'll now move on to the operational update. As we continue to navigate this critical period, our top priority remains to health and well-being of Allison's extended family, safety measures and precautions that have been implemented throughout the pandemic remain in place today and Allison is now providing onsite COVID-19 testing to our employees in Indianapolis. So much progress has been made in addressing the effects of the pandemic, and there is good reason to be optimistic, the risk to our extended families and communities persist and we encourage everyone to remain vigilant, follow all recommended guidelines and look out for one another.

We are pleased to report that Allison's fourth quarter and second half results reflected the ongoing global economic recovery. 2020 was obviously an unprecedented year, severe disruptions to the global economy as a result of the pandemic led to substantial volatility in demand, and considerable labor and supply chain constraints. Despite these challenges, Allison was able to maintain the uninterrupted delivery of our products and the generation of earnings and positive cash flow. Once again, thanks to the unrelenting commitment, dedication and resilience of Allison's employees customers, suppliers and communities.

Also during 2020, Allison settled a total of $225 million of share repurchases, or over 5% of our outstanding shares and completed an opportunistic refinancing of our long-term debt, resulting in anticipated annual savings of $13 million in cash interest expense, with the earliest maturity due in 2026. Consistent with our capital allocation priorities, last week the Board of Directors approved a 12% increase of our quarterly dividend from $0.17 to $0.19 per share. Aggressive cost management efforts throughout the year, while continuing to fund significant investments in engineering, research and development and capital expenditures have positioned Allison to capitalize in growth opportunities across all of our end markets for years to come.

Thank you. And I'll now turn the call over to Fred.

G. Frederick Bohley -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Thank you, Dave. Following Dave's comments, I'll discuss the Q4 2020 performance summary, key income statement line items, and cash flow. I'll then introduce full-year 2021 guidance before turning the call back over to Dave.

Please turn to Slide five of the presentation for the Q4 2020 performance summary. Net sales decreased 13% to $535 million, compared to the same period in 2019, principally driven by the continued effect of the pandemic on the global economy. However, net sales increased $3 million on a sequential basis as a recovery in customer demand and the global economy that began in the third quarter continued through the end of the year.

Gross margins for the quarter was 47.3%, a decrease of 100 basis points, compared to 48.3% for the same period in 2019. The decrease was principally driven by lower net sales. Net income for the quarter was $60 million, compared to $107 million for the same period in 2019. The decrease was principally driven by lower net sales $19 million in expenses related to the long-term debt refinancing in November 2020 and $8 million favorable 2019 environmental remediation adjustment that did not reoccur in 2020, partially offset by lower selling, general and administrative expenses and the intra-year timing of product initiatives spending.

Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was $186 million or 34.8% of net sales, compared to $216 million or 35% of net sales for the same period in 2019. The decrease was principally driven by lower gross profit, partially offset by lower commercial activities spending and the intra-year timing of product initiatives spending. A detailed overview of our net sales by end market can be found on Slide six of the presentation.

Please turn to Slide seven of the presentation for the Q4 2020 financial performance summary. Selling, general and administrative expenses decreased $14 million or 15% for the same period in 2019, principally driven by lower commercial activity spending and lower intangible amortization expense. Engineering, research and development expenses decreased $7 million for the same period in 2019, principally driven by the intra-year timing of product initiatives spending.

Please turn to Slide eight of the presentation for the Q4 2020 cash flow performance summary. Adjusted free cash flow for the quarter was $128 million, compared to $121 million for the same period in 2019. The increase was principally driven by lower capital expenditures, lower commercial activity spending and the intra-year timing of product initiatives spending, partially offset by lower gross profit, higher operating working capital requirements, and increased cash income taxes.

We ended the quarter with a net leverage ratio of 3 times, $310 million of cash and $645 million of available revolving credit facility commitments. We continued to maintain a flexible long-dated and covenant-light debt structure with the earliest maturity due in March 2026. During the fourth quarter, we settled $29 million in share repurchases and paid a dividend of $0.17 per share and we ended the quarter with approximately $827 million of authorized share repurchase capacity. Our long-standing commitment to prudent balance sheet management, ample liquidity, profitable operations and purposeful investments continues to position Allison well to navigate the current environment and realize future opportunities.

Please turn to Slide 10 of the presentation for the 2021 guidance. Despite the positive momentum in the economic recovery, supply chains across the globe continued to be strained. Current challenges include labor constraints and shortages of component material as global demand surpassed this capacity recovery. Increased transport demand has created logistic issues for both ocean container and air freight adding the freight delays across all industries and certain electronic components such as semiconductors or chips are also constrained across all industries.

Our procurement and global supply chain teams continued to work closely with our suppliers at every level to understand and mitigate constraints. Our suppliers understand the importance of Allison as an essential critical infrastructure manufacturer and the impact both the commercial vehicle and defense industries have in the global pandemic recovery. Continued coordination with our suppliers, customers, and industry participants from order to delivery will be required as we worked collaboratively to mitigate the ongoing and unprecedented risks caused by the global pandemic.

With this in mind, we expect net sales for 2021 to be in the range of $2.265 billion to $2.415 billion or a midpoint increase of 12%, compared to net sales for 2020, reflecting higher demand in Global On-Highway and Service Parts, Support Equipment & Other end markets as a result of the ongoing global recovery, continued improvement in customer demand and price increases on certain products.

Our full-year 2021 guidance assumes the continuation of supply chain challenges for this foreseeable future. In addition to Allison's 2021 net sales guidance, we anticipate net income in the range of $375 million to $445 million; adjusted EBITDA in the range of $770 million to $860 million, net cash provided by operating activities in the range of $560 million to $630 million. Adjusted free cash flow in the range of $390 million to $450 million. And capital expenditures in the range of $170 million to $180 million including approximately $60 million for sustainment and over $100 million for growth initiatives.

Finally, our 2021 guidance reflects a 30% increase in engineering, research and development expense, consistent investments in R&D through the pandemic along with planned increases to capex and R&D in 2021, will continue to fund product development initiatives in support of our long-term growth across all of our end markets. These initiatives include the advancement of the most efficient and innovative electrified propulsion and internal combustion solutions for the global on-highway end markets, more durable and higher rated off-highway applications, new and more capable cross drive transmissions for global defense, next generation controls technology that can be leveraged across all of our end markets. And state-of-the art and proprietary vehicle testing and product development facilities to virtually and physically optimize performance and accelerate time to market. We remain steadfast in our commitment to fund initiatives that will drive growth and expand our end-markets while consistently delivering strong financial results.

Thank you, and I'll now turn the call back over to Dave.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Fred. in the past, I've mentioned that Allison has more opportunities to invest for growth than at any other time in its history. Earlier, I noted that we are positioned to capitalize on growth opportunities across all of our end markets. And Fred just discussed how consistent investments through the pandemic, along with planned increases in 2021, we'll continue to fund product development initiatives and supportive long-term growth.

One of the key areas where Allison has been investing extensively for decades is an electrified propulsion. In the last three years alone, Allison has made approximately $250 million in direct investments to advance electrified propulsion technology. We have fully funded state-of-the-art, and proprietary manufacturing and development infrastructure in place, including our recently completed electric axle development and manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and our recently unveiled vehicle environmental test center here in Indianapolis.

These investments and capabilities combined with our decades of experience with vehicle propulsion, extensive knowledge of vehicle controls technology, our vocational and duty cycle expertise, our customer relationships, our brand promise and our service network are formidable differentiators and emerging industry attempting to serve uncompromising end users. These differentiators are why multiple major OEMs representing over 70% of the North America -- North America on-highway revenue have already chosen to integrate Allison's eGen Power electric axles into their electric and hydrogen fuel cell truck development and validation program.

They are also why we are consistently engaged in senior level discussions with many more new and established OEMs that have expressed interest in Allison electric propulsion solutions. Collectively, these opportunities span a broad range of markets and duty cycles, including the Class 8 line-haul market, where Allison's eGen Power is ideally suited to meet the demands of heavy duty class 8 tractors while expanding Allison's addressable market.

Allison's eGen Power 100D electric axle unveiled late last year during HINO Trucks Project Z, path to zero emissions initiative is one of the most powerful and fully integrated electric axle systems in the world. It features multiple electric motors and a two-speed transmission integrated into the central housing, facilitating a high starting great ability, increased top speed and superior efficiency. The eGen Power 100D is a highly engineered and fully integrated solution that eliminates many of the inefficiencies of competitive electric axles. These performance and efficiency advantages translate directly to wide ranging duty cycles and increased range capability, or a reduction in battery pack size for the electric truck optimizing the economic value delivered to the end user.

The economies of an electric truck remain one of the most significant obstacles that needs to be overcome in order to achieve broad adoption abilities in the commercial space. Ultimately, no single component will solve this equation by itself. It will take a collaborative effort across the entire powertrain to sufficiently reduce the total cost of ownership of an electric truck. The Allison eGen Power 100D is designed and developed for wide ranging performance efficiency and durability reducing the total cost of ownership and contributing to the economic viability of the electric truck.

In addition to the opportunities presented by electrified propulsion, Allison is exceedingly well positioned to capture and capitalize on the long runway of conventional growth opportunities that lies ahead. We continue to make significant investments to advance innovative and more fuel efficient conventional propulsion solutions for the global on-highway end markets.

For example, our upcoming nine-speed transmission will provide reduced emissions, improved fuel economy and advanced stop start capability. Drivers will enjoy improved acceleration, which could lead directly to increase productivity and when combined with Allison's FuelSense and xFE technology. The nine-speed will set a new benchmark in fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, helping our customers meet increasingly and rigorous environmental regulations and supporting the expansion and increased penetration of our addressable market.

Investment an increasingly more capable and higher-rated products will help our pressure pumping and hydraulic fracturing customers meet the demands for greater efficiency, smaller footprints, and shorter times the depth and increased productivity. Despite the state of the global energy markets throughout the majority of 2020, Allison remain committed to its global off-highway customers and is ready to support them with solutions that deliver the Allison promise for years to come.

Our investment in advanced cross drive transmission solutions for the global track defense and market offer exceptional growth opportunities for Allison as Allison partners with the United States Department of Defense, and our peers and allies to develop new track applications with autonomous and electrified features to increase soldier survivability and maintain battlefield dominance for decades to come.

Opportunities to equip the latest track defense platforms in development include the Army's new mobile protected firepower program, which could lead to the procurement of up to 500 vehicles over 10-years and the upgraded M88A3 Hercules prototype designed to modernize the Army's existing M88 platform. The Army currently has a fleet of more than 900 M88 vehicles and the potential revenue opportunity for Allison could represent approximately $0.5 billion over two decades of the entire fleet is modernized.

And lastly, on defense investments in Allison's next generation electrified cross drive transmission propulsion system with autonomous and electric propulsion capabilities to reduce detection and electric hybrid and exportable power features is being developed to meet the unique armored vehicle requirements of tomorrow's Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program, and can ultimately replace nearly 3,800 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles. We are also investing in next generation vehicles controls technology featuring enhanced security, functional safety, and over the road programming capabilities, our vehicle controls technology will also be leveraged across multiple platforms and all of our end markets.

And finally, our previously announced innovation center will be completed in 2021 and feature expanded and unique, virtual and physical systems, simulation capabilities, including development and validation, functional safety and regulatory compliance focused on fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Once complete, the innovation center combined with our vehicle environmental test center will significantly enhance Allison's proprietary product development and vehicle testing capabilities.

The market leadership that Allison enjoys today was not achieved by chance. Allison has always been at the forefront of innovation, and this has never been more true than it is today. We will continue to invest appropriately to drive growth, expand our market leadership and further position Allison, as a preferred and long-term partner. There is a great deal of excitement and innovation taking place across the entire industry at the moment and Allison thrives in this environment. We look forward to providing you with more product development and collaboration updates in the coming months and quarters.

This concludes our prepared remarks. Melissa, please open the call for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. At this time, we'll be conducting a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Jerry Revich with Goldman Sachs. Please proceed with your question.

Jerry Revich -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Yes. Hi, good morning, everyone. And then Dave, congratulations on your new responsibilities. I'm wondering, if you gentlemen can talk about your market position as a component supplier to the new start-up companies that some, which have been listed, some which are on their way to being listed, where -- what proportion of them are you working with sort of similar to the 75% number, Dave that you shared in your prepared remarks? And I'm wondering if you could touch on what, sort of, electric powertrain contribution does your '21 revenue guidance embed?

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Jerry and thank you, it's Dave. A couple of things, as we've indicated on some of the prior calls, our team is engaged broadly across the industry, whether that be with established OEMs or some of the new OEM, shall we say? I would tell you that engagement is broad-based, but very much focused on the eGen Power line-up at this point.

So having said that, we've had a number of discussions around volume and timing to be blunt, what we've found is frankly, whether it's established OEMs and some of the newer ones, there's a wide range on volumes. There's also a wide range on timing. So, we need to do more work frankly, in response to your question there about ultimately, what does that mean from a near-term perspective, as well as what I would define as the more mature market outlook in terms of share and what those vehicle line-ups ultimately are? I think it's fair to say there's a lot of good intentions and statements that have been made about what could be, but we're very much focused on probable outcomes at this point and that's -- that requires a very focused approach. So that's where our team is spending the majority of their time, but I would ultimately expect that, we'll have share with a number of different OEMs, but those will be, I think, very focused and consistent with our goals, which is immature view.

And I think frankly, production level vehicle releases ultimately, because these are very complex systems and don't lend themselves to what I would define as prototype to ultimately, a regular production transition that get very complicated, very costly and timely to ultimately implement.

Jerry Revich -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Rob Wertheimer with Melius Research. Please proceed with your question.

Rob Wertheimer -- Melius Research -- Analyst

Hey, good morning all. And it's actually a similar question to Jerry's. To the extent you can, can you talk about what is the scope of opportunity for you within new powertrains, e-axle is obviously, you've made a big push. And then Dave could you define -- I'm sorry, maybe, I missed the context around the 75%, but could you just kind of define and I know you just touched on this with Jerry, just what that comment was, and then just maybe, any more color on how many competitors you're facing and what you're doing and how you look like you stack up now? Thank you.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Rob. Thank you. Look, I think the comment you made is that our position is very similar to what we talked about with the Q3 call in terms of who we're working with at this point. I think we're certainly confident in what those efforts pretend to be. Ultimately again, focused on where we are from an e-axle perspective. I would say what's continuing to evolve in a number of discussions with OEMs and evaluations is a focused effort around what is today. And I think this is important, when you think about what exists today with conventional, there's a fairly team level of desire and focus around proliferation. In other words, the lack thereof and as we look at the space as you see it evolving the EV space today for commercial vehicle, it's -- there are a lot of different discussions, component systems being evaluated, but the industry really doesn't lend itself to that level of proliferation.

So, I think the way we are considering this space is ultimately having a foundational design or frankly, a base model, if you will, that's capable of covering a wide range different duty cycles, and vehicle sizes and ratings. So that's really what the focus is currently is providing that type of solution that ultimately addresses the proliferation question. At the same time, delivers what I would define as at or better than conventional performance today. The fact is end users OEMs -- or are -- we all are really come accustomed to a high level of uptime and reliability, and cost definition and ultimately, certainty. That's going to be required over time to be successful. And that's really what our focus is, but the audience that we're targeting continues to be the same, I would say, what is -- what has changed and is evolving for us, is this broader objective about a full range covered by essentially a base architecture with some variation, but very limited from that perspective.

Rob Wertheimer -- Melius Research -- Analyst

That's a fascinating answer. I know I'm supposed to do one, is the industry yet focused on that proliferation issue that you mentioned, and I understand it well, and your point there. And then do you have enough data or knowledge of where the industry is going to know that your product is right within the band of what people are wanting and I will stop. Thank you so much.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Not, because the -- a couple of things, the proliferation issue again, you get so close to things. Sometimes you need a lower perspective and that's where we are with conventional, we're so close to what we're used to it. I personally do not believe that the industry is fully come to grips with what that means and what that ultimately leads to. And we're -- there's a lot of things I would not focus on necessarily, what's first is ultimately what is the mature objective and that's the way we think about it. I think the short answer to your question is I'm not sure the proliferation issue has really been fully captured.

But ultimately, I would say based on the amount of inquiries and interest that we're receiving, there's a signal there that I think they're starting to be some sense or broader sense of what that mature view is. And again, it's evolving and it'll continue to change. But I would not describe the voice of customer at this point, as highly matured to a level that you could, I think may vary from decisions, ultimately, a range that addresses proliferation, and it has performance that is at or better than conventional experience.

Rob Wertheimer -- Melius Research -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Larry De Maria with William Blair. Please proceed with your question.

Larry De Maria -- William Blair -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, everybody. Can you talk a little bit about market share in 2020? Obviously, I think you've done this in protocols -- I'm sorry, 2021, not 2020. I'm curious how you did, and then also if you think about over the next three to five years, because I know you've been gaining share last few years, how do you think about attrition to EV over the next few years compared to what you have now, just trying to understand how you think you might lose a little bit over the next few years? Thank you.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Larry, it's Dave. let me start and I'll let Fred finish. As I -- to your question on share estimates, it's really focused on the on-highway business, as we think about what occurred in 2020, where I'm certainly very proud and pleased what our team accomplished despite the conditions that everybody's dealing with. But I would say from a share perspective, overall good outcome for us as we largely maintained, or I would argue improves in certain cases. To your question on what that means relative to potential EV attrition, there's a number of forecasts by various parties that are out there. I would offer that we view the November 2020 US election results as providing potentially, the opportunity to accelerate the pace, at which end markets evolve to what we're -- I think what everybody's looking for to answer your question, which is sustainable demand. Given what we believe is the -- that the governing impact on consequential commitments, by all parties that are involved. In other words, as I mentioned earlier, when you look at what's being proposed by a number of OEMs on potential ranges of programs etc.

Our experience, I would say, they're at least to date, there are very wide ranges of volume, which probably tells you something. There's also timing that in many cases, it's certainly set out to be, I think, what everybody wants to do, but ultimately is getting in many cases delayed for a number of valid reasons, point being is that all of that is going to impact the answer to the question that you asked, which is attrition. And I think my -- our view is a lot more needs to be understood about ultimately, the cost of these systems and when they are economically viable within the addressable spaces that we participate in with and without any type of subsidies.

I mean, the fact is, again, I think there's a lot of optimism around what the elections last November could mean. But you still need to address all the issues that your -- everybody is familiar with in terms of performance, cost, infrastructure, etc. So, the answer is, I think, as we look at it, many of the ranges that we've seen tie out to say 2020, 2025, post-2025, in terms of any, I would say level of volume that's discernible within the spaces that we see and even then, they seem, they're relatively small in comparison to the broader space, which creates its own challenges, as you know.

So, with that, I'll turn it over to Fred in terms of the market share point here.

G. Frederick Bohley -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Sure. Larry, relative to 2020, we've been on really, multi-year gaining share, the biggest share jump there for us was Class 8 Straight up from 2019 levels, 75% penetration of all transmissions, total share in Class 8 Straight up to about 80%. thinking about 2021, our assumptions in the guide is basically neutral on share gain, no loss, no gain.

Larry De Maria -- William Blair -- Analyst

Okay. That's great. Thanks for all that. Would you guys host an analyst meeting to go through all this long-term strategy and EV at some point? and I'll leave it there. Thanks very much guys.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Certainly, that's in the mix. we have a tremendous amount going on from a technology standpoint that we'd like to lay out to the investment community.

Larry De Maria -- William Blair -- Analyst

Thanks. Good luck, guys.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from line of Courtney Yakavonis with Morgan Stanley. Please proceed with your question.

Courtney Yakavonis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi, thanks guys. Maybe, just a follow-up to that, I know you mentioned the Class 8 Straight share, but if you could talk a little bit about school bus, I think that's a place, where you've been losing share. It seems where that is where a lot of the electrification, adoption might be happening a little bit sooner. So, if you could just reference what your expectations for share there are in 2021?

And then going back to your R&D increase of about 30%, it's baked into your guidance for 2021. I think that's going to get your R&D close to 8.5% sales based on your sales guidance, which is significantly higher than we've seen historically and obviously, understandable given the investment that you're doing in the eGen platform. But as we look longer-term, is that the right level that we should be thinking about? Or should that be kind of continuing to increase with this double-digit rate for the next couple of years. So, just try not to frame where R&D should be in the medium term?

G. Frederick Bohley -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Sure, Courtney. This is Fred. I'll take the first part relative to our expectations on school bus share. And we have a basically neutral in 2021 from 2020 levels, and Dave you want to respond to the R&D questions?

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure the -- Courtney, good morning. It's a couple of things; with R&D, as we've mentioned before, it's very much tied to market opportunities, right? And this goes beyond the EV to -- frankly, all of our end markets and I'm certainly again, recognizing our team's efforts to drive growth. And that's really, the outcome is what you see is the investment in R&D and the increases there is a combination of electrification, as well as other initiatives in our broader end markets and markets portfolio. That being said, I wouldn't assume to your point in terms of -- I would not really look at it as a percent of sales, although I can appreciate the fact that it's -- it does facilitate some level of modeling and such. But the way I would think about that is it's ultimately market-driven. And if you break down what's happening in 2021, the name off of that base, the expectation is I think over time, it'll moderate ultimately.

At the same time, we're also doing a fair amount of investment, have done a fair amount of investment in capital investments around our technical capabilities, and I would again see that's very much moderating after this year. the balance will come to us with market demand frankly and those investment analyses will be made and we'll make appropriate decisions. but it's clear from our comments and our actions that we are investing in growth opportunities across the entire portfolio. And then to the extent that there's more opportunities, there were inappropriate returns, we'll fund accordingly. But I can certainly assure you the investments are there. The team is very much engaged and we look forward to bringing these things, these programs ultimately to market and looking beyond those in terms of what's next.

Courtney Yakavonis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Ian Zaffino with Oppenheimer. Please proceed with your question. Mr. Zaffino, your line is live. Sorry, thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Jamie Cook with Credit Suisse. Please proceed with your question.

Jamie Cook -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Hi, good morning and congratulations, Dave. I guess two questions, one first, the implied incremental margins on your guidance, I think are ranging from 20% to 40% understanding R&D is part of that, but is there anything else you can point to whether it's COVID challenges or supply chain, and I guess how conservative that guide is?

And then my second question you've talked a lot about the organic growth initiatives. I'm just wondering how you're thinking about inorganic opportunities and opportunity in terms of M&A, and whether there's an opportunity for you get into -- to get into adjacent products, whether it's power electronics, battery packs, I'm just trying to understand how you could somewhat broaden your product offering if there's an appetite to? Thanks.

G. Frederick Bohley -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Hi, Jamie. This is Fred. I'll take the first part of that question. Relative to the implied incrementals at the midpoint, the 32% incremental on a drop through realizing that we've got engineering R&D, up 30%, absent that increase in R&D that drop through would be about close to 50%. So certainly, it's fairly attractive performance from a gross margin standpoint and we're funding the business. On a year-over-year basis, you're really looking at the additional spend on R&D, you really get at this point, you have a par payout on extending comp rolling through that is really somewhat offset by the unfavorable policy and warranty adjustments in 2020.

We do anticipate getting priced, 50 basis points to 75 basis points, but there's a lot of cost pressures with the supply chain challenges. So, we're typically price cost positive. This year, we're anticipating being closer to neutral. Certainly, the price is there, but the expedited freight, the commodity pressures, we definitely will attempt to mitigate those, but the other thing you have rolling through just when you think about 2020, just a lot of spend, it just couldn't happen. So, there's a little pressure upward on SG&A, as your economy opens up and you're able to begin travel.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Jamie, thank you and good morning. In terms of your question on the organic growth or supplementing that, I guess through potentially M&A and across whether it's EV or conventional adjacencies to your point. We are actively engaged in assessing external investment opportunities to further enhance our position electrification, as well as expanding our addressable markets. I think to your point, whether it's electrification, which, we obviously have done a few things in 2019 and continued to be very engaged, I would note for -- as you think about electrification to the -- in our prepared comments, this point about collaboration is important, because I don't know as to the answer necessarily is absolutely control everything. I think that's challenging to do, especially when you think about a relatively immature voice, a customer and a number of other frankly attributes that need to be addressed and ultimately answered too.

We believe ultimately there's collaboration that will be required, that could take the form of a number of different partnerships, arrangements, etc. So it's not only from an M&A perspective as we're approaching the market. It's also from a collaborative perspective. And I think at some level, leveraging investments that have already been made in trying to do that, and then from a view of capital, efficiency and ultimately, the most appropriate application of existing technology or other opportunities.

That being said, the adjacencies, a point that you raised, as we've thought about that and continued to look at the market opportunities, we believe they are there whether those are in ultimately, conventional or EV, I would say on the conventional side as you think about what's happened even over the last year, year plus, there's a number of issues that have been raised relative to supply chain and more broadly, the sustainability of that supply chain going forward, just given the amount of demand that was there and then the pandemic, and then recovering from the pandemic. So, we believe there's opportunity there as well to look at the market.

In addition, our relationships over the years in certain adjacencies are proving to be attractive, as well in terms of potential opportunities. So, as we think it, it's broad, as I think we should be open-minded, but as part of our capital allocation priorities, M&A is certainly at the forefront to ultimately, support growth whether that be through organic initiatives that are under way or ultimately, broadening our adjacencies.

Jamie Cook -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Okay, thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Felix Boeschen with Raymond James. Please proceed with your question.

Felix Boeschen -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, everybody.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

G. Frederick Bohley -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Good morning.

Felix Boeschen -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Hey, I was hoping you could maybe, give us your thoughts around international opportunities. On one hand, you have tightening emission standards in places like China, I would assume that would be a positive for you all equal, but obviously, electrification is accelerating quickly there also, you still see some incremental opportunities on a shift toward automatic transmissions? Or just more EV effectively, cannibalize that. And if you could just help us think through your approach and thoughts, that will be super helpful.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Felix, good morning, it's Dave. So to your question, it's really there are -- we believe significant opportunities out in emerging markets for ultimately, fully automatic solutions. There, those markets have many of the same demographic attributes and challenges that you would argue more established developed markets do, whether that's the US or Europe or others at this point. So, there is going to be demand there, because of a lack of skilled drivers for manuals that's the demand ultimately, for fully automatic solutions. But I think your point on emissions as well taken, if you think about all the work that we've done in partnership and collaboration with the entire powertrains that's going to be required to meet a number of tightening situations globally. And I think we've -- we obviously have experienced with that and we'll continue to drive that.

But to your point, certainly, EV in China for instance, is very heavy in bus. Truck has proven to be, I think, much more challenging for a number of reasons. They're moving around some subsidies there, but the fact is it will be a bit of a reach we believe in terms of total cost of ownership, especially when you think about the challenges of addressing the need for automation in those same vehicles today and the cost challenges. So, I think the long answer to your question is we still -- I believe there's significant opportunity for growth in those markets.

Felix Boeschen -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from line of Ann Duignan with JPMorgan. Please proceed with your question.

Ann Duignan -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Yes. Hi, good morning. Just back to the base business for a moment, for your on-highway North American business, can you just talk about the cadence of sales that you're anticipating? Do you expect all quarters will be up year-over-year? And then within your core markets in on-highway. Could you just talk about maybe, the differences or the similarities in terms of the growth rates that you're expecting there and thank you.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Ann, it's Dave. To your question, as we think about the quarters just describing, looking at them on a year-over-year basis for North America on-highway, I would expect Q1 to ultimately be a bit lower than last year on a quarter-over-quarter basis. We expect Q2 and Q3 to be better on a year-over-year basis, and then Q4 probably slightly positive. Again to your point cadence though everything I've just said with the caveat of the various supply chain issues, and I'm sure you're well, probably too well versed in at this point and to what we commented, including Fred's detailed commentary there, that's an open switch, frankly, and it's one that is taking a tremendous amount of time from our team to ultimately look to address, I will also offer relative to the supply chain issue, that potentially has impact throughout a number of different end markets, because we're seeing lead times be impacted and specifically, around the availability of certain raw materials, etc.

So, the caveats of -- caveats apply, but to your question there, that's the way we would see ultimately, the year breaking out from North America on-highway. To your -- I think second part of your question, as we think about the individual components of North America on-highway, medium duty, as you know, continues to be strong given the lack of inventory, whether new or used and the strong order boards and backlogs, and I think frankly, sets up for a reasonably positive 2022, interestingly enough at this point.

Lease and rental key segment for us. We believe those fleets at this point, they're either right or undersized, and then -- and they're continuing to experience high utilization rates. Muni is mixed, but I would say overall, you're continuing to see strength in residential rescues, decreased bus utilization, tax revenues depends on regions, obviously in terms of how they've responded to the pandemic. I think this weather that we're experiencing in many parts of the US right now is consuming budgets at an alarming rate for some of these municipalities. So that'll be an issue as to how they look at their budgets for the balance of this year, in terms of both maintenance and equipment.

Oil and gas is an interesting one, because we're certainly starting to see utilization rates go up. And the impact of that's starting to flow through with higher energy prices, dealers are certainly, concerned around the deficiencies that they're experiencing and struggling to maintain a manageable level of stock inventory, bodybuilder lead times are out there. They're really extending now at this point, but I would say overall, the positive momentum carried from certainly, Q1 into or Q4 into Q1. But there's the supply chain issues that I mentioned earlier are really going to have a number of us working extremely hard to try to manage from at least into, I think the first half of the year.

Ann Duignan -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Okay. And just as a quick follow-up, you didn't mention school buses, couldn't you go back Fred or you didn't tell us what your school bus market share was in 2020? You just said flat in 2021. And then do you expect school bus demand be up flat or down in 2021? Thank you.

G. Frederick Bohley -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Sure, Ann. Our 2020 school bus penetration is 84%. We have school bus, and I think it's somewhat a wildcard house going play out, we have school bus modeled slightly down in 2021.

Ann Duignan -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you and I appreciate it.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Brett Linzey with Vertical Research Partners. Please proceed with your question.

Brett Linzey -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Hi, good morning, everyone.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Brett Linzey -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Hey, I wanted to come back to the e-axle initiative and the electrified powertrain. Understanding you're building off a base architecture, but could you just talk about your technology, where you think you differentiate versus peers in that category? And then is there anything you can share along the lines of the number of customers engaged or pilot programs under way to help frame that progress?

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. This is Dave. Again, in terms of the technology, as I think we covered in some of the prepared remarks, the level of integration that the e-power -- the eGen Power ultimately, offers is we believe that at a level of performance that is unique in the marketplace currently. So, what do I mean by that? Again, if you think about conventional experience today, when we talk about gradability and performance, those are all attributes that are taken for granted. There are with very few exceptions right now, at least in terms of what is available that meets those requirements. And I use the word uncompromising in the prepared remarks for a reason, because that's what everybody is used to. We are taking again, the ultimate focus and objective is meeting or exceeding conventional experience. And that really has been the focus of the eGen Power development program.

So to your question, in terms of a number of parties we're working with, etc, beyond the point mentioned about, the 70% or so of our North America on-highway revenue. I would also tell you there's parties outside of North America that we're talking to as well, and considering those development programs, again, back to what I mentioned earlier, which is really focused in probable engagements, meaning the ranges that are being provided, whether those be volume or timing, become relevant as to where anybody's going to spend their time at this point. And I think without more certainty, there's going to continue to be a fairly high level of variability around what you hear and over what period of time. We're focused on what we've really probable outcomes. And that's important because every one of these, whether you have one unit running or a thousand is a significant undertaking in terms of time by both parties.

But the more important thing is customers are not interested in, explaining why things don't work to the expectations that they have. We are certainly intending on meeting or exceeding current performance that they're experiencing with our brand and conventional and that is really uncompromising. So, as we focus on it -- it's the right parties ultimately with probable outcomes. And frankly, I think the market will sort through that as -- I think, as everybody knows the market, doesn't like chaos. And this is one that I think will bear itself out over time is, really a focused approach to probable outcomes that deliver our brand promise and I think that's probably the most concise way to describe it.

Brett Linzey -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Okay. Helpful color. And appreciate the thoughts on the M&A strategy on different pockets of opportunity. But as you think about balancing capital deployment, is there room to do both share repo in deals or is M&A the priority and you toggle to repo, if discussions aren't progressing, just trying to understand, how much stock you could maybe buy this year and the next couple of years, while you're doing things and pursuing inorganic opportunities?

G. Frederick Bohley -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Yes, Brett. This is Fred. I mean, in the middle of a global pandemic 2020, we generated over $450 million in free cash flow. So, we've laid out our capital allocation policies and we were fortunate in that. We generate so much cash. We're in a position to fund all of those priorities. You're seeing it, we've funded organically for revenue and growth, and we're funding for product development and technology. Dave mentioned, pursuing strategic opportunity, we're returning capital shareholders. In the last four years, we've repurchased over a third of our shares. We just raised our dividend by 12%, and then we've got the balance sheet in really great shape. And again, we're always focused on maintaining that low cost, flexible, pre-payable debt structure. So, we are positioned on a go-forward basis to fund all of our capital allocation priorities.

Brett Linzey -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Yes. Absolutely. Okay, great. Thanks. Appreciate the color.

Operator

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. That concludes our question-and-answer session. I'll turn the floor back to Mr. Graziosi for any final comments.

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Melissa and thank everybody for their continued interest in Allison and for participating in today's call. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 64 minutes

Call participants:

Raymond Posadas -- Managing Director of Investor Relations

David S. Graziosi -- Director, President and Chief Executive Officer

G. Frederick Bohley -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Jerry Revich -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Rob Wertheimer -- Melius Research -- Analyst

Larry De Maria -- William Blair -- Analyst

Courtney Yakavonis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Jamie Cook -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Felix Boeschen -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Ann Duignan -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Brett Linzey -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

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