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Caterpillar to launch truck brand

Cat pounces: Navistar trucks will be sold under the famous Caterpillar badge in Australia.

Navistar hooks its wagon to Caterpillar for new Cat truck line in Australia

General News logo23 Mar 2010

AMERICAN construction and mining equipment specialist Caterpillar is joining with United States truck-maker Navistar to produce a new truck line in Australia.

Interestingly, the new trucks will be called Caterpillars and will launch here mid-year.

The Cat trucks will be rolled out in several other markets, but Australia will be first.

Caterpillar has been producing on-road truck engines for a long time, and its construction gear and dump trucks mean they are well respected in Australia.

Now it is using its strong brand image to launch this new set of trucks in a new global tie-up with Navistar, the owner of the International truck brand, which used to be known as International Harvester.

80 center imageLeft: Navistar TranStar. Below: Navistar ProStar.

Iveco has been producing International trucks in Australia since the local arm of International Harvester collapsed in the early 1980s, but will cease production and wind up sales part way through next year. It will continue to offer parts and support for those trucks.

The new Navistar/Caterpillar tie up will not produce International trucks in the short term and the brand may never be used again here.

Iveco’s Australian division, part of the Fiat group, will miss out on some local production volume as a result. It sold 199 Internationals last year and 406 in 2008.

The new Cat trucks will use imported Navistar cabs and axles and CAT engines, sourcing other components locally and assembling them at its existing Tullamarine plant.

Two heavy duty trucks will be rolled out first – a CT610 which will be rated for 19-metre applications for a capacity of 57 tonnes and a CT630 which will be used for B-double on-highway road train applications and available as a 72-tonne and 90-tonne capable truck.

For now, the trucks will run Cat engines but these will need to be replaced when Euro 5 emission rules come into place on January 1, 2011. Cat will not upgrade its own heavy duty road engines to meet the new standard and will instead use Navistar sourced engines in its new trucks.

It is an interesting time for a new player to enter the Australian truck market.

While it had been growing steadily, the new-truck market, and in particular heavy truck sales, tailed off in late 2008 and nose-dived last year as the global financial crisis hit the transport industry.

There are signs of recovery, in line with the economy in general, but it will be a while until sales return to 2008 levels.

The big question mark affecting the Cat operation relates to reliability.

The Australian market is one of the toughest in the world with operators running more kilometres with heavier loads on rougher roads than almost anywhere else.

This is basically a truck-breaker. Cat says it has already been testing its trucks on Australian roads and is confident they will be able to handle the tough local conditions.

In an industry that depends on reliability, this will be crucial to the brand’s future here.

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