Paccar’s “in-house” powered Kenworth surfaces down under

Paccar’s “in-house” powered Kenworth surfaces down under

In his monthly review of global news for local truckers, FRANK BEETON expands on recent speculation over Paccar’s Australian strategy, takes a literal stroll around the Brisbane Truck Show, and updates joint venture developments on the European van scene.

Last December, Global Focus discussed, in some detail, the potential dilemma faced by American group Paccar over its future in the Australian truck market. After more than a decade – when the group’s US-sourced Kenworth brand reigned supreme in the heavy commercial segment of over 16 tonnes gross vehicle mass (GVM)  – some evidence suggested that a new strategy was being considered for future participation in that market.

First, there was the introduction “down under” of the DAF XF105 from Paccar’s European operation, powered by the group’s own 375 kW (510 hp) MX 12,9-litre, in-house engine, and the subsequent listing of the locally favoured 18-speed Eaton Roadranger manual shift transmission as an alternative to the usual ZF As Tronic automated gearbox.

Second, and possibly even more indicative of an impending strategy shift, was the rumour that a Kenworth T403 conventional, fitted with the same DAF-designed MX engine, was undergoing tests in Australia.

This latter rumour has subsequently been reported as accurate in the Australian technical press, with the test vehicle, coupled to a tridem-axle tanker semi-trailer, spotted delivering fuel to a North Sydney filling station. Paccar Australia has also reportedly acknowledged that the T4 series of conventional (bonneted) models would “soon” be made available with the MX engine as an optional alternative to the 15-litre Cummins ISX power unit.

Production of Ashok Leyland’s Avia D-Series truck range is moving to India.The real question remains, however, whether this engine will also find its way into the highly successful K-Series cabover (forward control) models – which have been continuously developed since 1971 to provide the Australian B-Double market segment with appropriate products – currently offered only with Cummins engines. The alternative we imagine, would be to actively, influence Australian buyers in the direction of the DAF XF platform, possibly with some additional adaptations to bring it fully in line with Australian legislative and operator preference requirements.

The recent retirement of Paccar Australia’s long-serving managing director, Joe Rizzo, may be a key factor in determining future outcomes. It is unlikely that he would willingly have agreed to breaking down a business model that has been so spectacularly successful, but his successor, Mike Dozier, is from “head office” in the United States (US), and may have come with a different perspective, given that Australia is a relatively small market in global terms (2012 total sales above 3 500 kg GVM: 30 745 units).

As we intimated previously, the Kenworth K-Series is “long in the tooth”, and has required continuous and expensive redevelopment to stay competitive, while DAF offers the availability of a state-of-the-art forward control platform with the MX engine already built-in, and most of its development costs shared with other global markets including Europe, where it is highly successful. While this solution appears logical from the outside, it will not be decided upon without considerable angst in the Paccar boardrooms in both Bellevue, Washington and Bayswater, Victoria. We will be watching with great interest as this scenario plays out!

Brizzy Truck Show

Carrying on the Australian theme, Global Focus always keeps a beady eye on events down under, because that market bears the greatest similarity to our local scene that we have been able to identify since this column first appeared back in 2006. It’s not identical by any means, with more stringent Australian emission controls, and more liberal limits on vehicle lengths and gross tonnages in some areas where various configurations of the legendary road trains operate. But the overall mix of American, European and Asian brands, and a total annual sales volume not very much different to ours, make it a useful listening post for products and trends that may influence our own industry’s future direction.

Back in May, the biennial Brisbane Truck Show was staged in Queensland. Regarded as Australia’s premier road transport exhibition, it was well supported by the supply industry, and attracted nearly 38 000 visitors. It seems highly likely that the content of this show will provide some valuable pointers to what is likely to appear at our own Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS) in October. Here are some details of the more interesting exhibits:

• Volvo took the opportunity to introduce its recently launched FH European flagship to the Australian trucking community. Much emphasis was placed on the increased levels of safety offered by the latest FH cab design, but there was some surprise that the 560 kW (750 hp) rating for the 16-litre engine option was not yet available to power-hungry local operators.

• Group partner UD Trucks showed two new Quon 380 and 420 models (that “pet” name is now being used in Australia too), powered by the Japanese GH11 version of the Volvo family 11-litre engine, and driving through an Escot-branded, I-Shift automated transmission.

• Iveco’s exhibit included the latest Stralis range, now called Stralis Hi-Way back home in Europe, which will be sold in Australia in 4×2, 6×2 and 6×4 configurations. It is powered by the manufacturer’s own Cursor 8 or Cursor 10 engines and drives through ZF 12-speed automated transmissions. The latest version of Iveco’s unique normal-control (bonneted) Powerstar 7800, sold exclusively in the Antipodes and capable of gross combination mass (GCM) ratings of up to 140 tonnes, was also on view.

The recently-launched ProAce is Toyota’s version of the SevelNord European joint venture light van family, which includes the Citroën Jumpy, Peugeot Expert and Fiat Scudo.• Talking of unique trucks, the Caterpillar-branded products sold in Australia certainly fall into this category, and this Navistar-controlled brand’s CT630LS flagship was imaginatively displayed at Brisbane in an award-winning elevated display that provided an easy walk-through view of its underside technical detail.

• A particularly interesting exhibit was staged by Avia Oceania, the local representative of the eponymous Czechoslovakian-based manufacturer, showing the D-series of medium-payload trucks ranging from six to 12 tonnes GVM, in 4×2 or 4×4 configurations. These are being offered with day, sleeper or seven-seat crew cabs, and are powered by Cummins ISB diesels driving through ZF manual or Eaton automated transmissions. The stand also hosted zero-emission electric-drive versions carrying Smith Electric Truck branding.

The interest comes from the fact that the Avia company, which had once been part of the defunct Daewoo empire, was acquired by Ashok Leyland, of India, in 2006. However, just recently, this Indian manufacturer announced that it was ending production at the Czech location because of poor market conditions, and that the manufacture of some Avia-derived products was being relocated to India. So, if the sale of Avia D-Series products does proceed in Australia, it would also mark the initial market entry of Ashok Leyland products into that country.

• Chinese brand Foton made its second entry into the Australian market at the show, now being represented by Ateco Automotive, which is also the local distributor of Great Wall and Chery light vehicles. Ateco Automotive has taken over the Foton franchise previously held by Western Star/MAN/Dennis Eagle distributor Transpacific. The range now being offered has GVM ratings ranging from 4,49 to 8,5 tonnes, and is powered by 2,8- or 3,8-litre Chinese-built Cummins diesels.

• Hino’s exhibit at Brisbane paid homage to Australia’s firefighters, who have found themselves busy in recent years controlling numerous bushfires and other natural disasters. The vehicle on display was the 1 000th Hino truck to enter service with Victoria’s Country Fire Authority, this being a four-wheel-drive 500-Series GT model. Hino has subsequently announced that this off-road model is now available with an Allison five-speed, fully automatic transmission. The GT is equipped with an engine-mounted PTO, which allows continuous use for liquid pumping duties when the vehicle is in motion, and it is also available with non-slip differentials.

• Allison displayed its new TC10 ten-speed, twin-countershaft torque converter transmission at the show. This very interesting fully automatic unit was originally launched in the US during September 2011, and has subsequently been on test with some 100 North American truck fleets. Allison has aimed this product at short and medium-distance operators in the premium Class 8 segment of the US market (15 tonnes GVM and above).

Initially rated for use with engines of up to 450 kW (600 hp) and 2 240 Nm, the TC10 transmits its power through wet clutches in the main five-speed gearbox and a two-speed planetary range section. It has been touted by its manufacturer as a serious alternative to current-generation AMT transmissions. Its acceptance and performance under Australian conditions will be well worth watching.

Van joint venture news

The SevelSud joint venture that currently produces Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer and Citroën Jumper (known locally as the Relay) integral panel vans at Val Di Sangro, in Italy, is to be extended to at least 2019. In terms of a new agreement signed by Fiat and PSA Peugeot-Citroën, a joint investment will be made to develop a new product to replace the current generation. Peugeot is also planning to invest more than €750 million (R10,2 trillion) in a new light van model to be produced at its SevelNord plant near Valenciennes in France, where Citroën’s Jumpy (known locally as the Dispatch), Peugeot’s Expert and Fiat’s Scudo are currently manufactured.

Readers may recall Fiat’s announcement that it was to withdraw from this programme in 2017, but the subsequent news that Toyota intended to purchase between 
5 000 and 10 000 Jumpy/Expert spinoff vans annually, from the second quarter of 2013, and also share in the development costs of the next generation product, would have made a significant contribution to the future viability of the SevelNord operation.

The Toyota-branded European van recently emerged as the ProAce, offering up to seven cubic metres of internal load space, and a maximum payload capacity of 
1 200 kg. This model is only available with diesel power, and the engine options include a 1,6-litre unit developing 67 kW (90 hp), or two two-litre engines with outputs of 95 kW or 120 kW (128 hp or 163 hp). The smaller diesel drives through a five-speed manual transmission, while both the larger engines are mated to 
six-speed gearboxes.

Should this model live up to Toyota’s expectations, we would still not be surprised to see the arrangement extended upmarket to include the larger SevelSud product range, possibly at the next model change. Similar opportunities have already been successfully exploited by Nissan and General Motors. They both gained access to panel van families for the European market through product-sharing arrangements with Renault.

 


Global FOCUS is a monthly update of international news relating to the commercial vehicle industry. It is compiled exclusively for FOCUS by Frank Beeton of Econometrix.

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