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Navistar gets its 15-litre muscle

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Navistar gets its 15-litre muscleIn his monthly review of global news for local truckers, FRANK BEETON looks at Navistar’s new/old big-bore engine, details the first Caterpillar on-highway truck for North America, sums up the 2010 Aussie truck market, and analyses the first Euro 6 engine from Daimler Trucks.


The long-anticipated move by North American truck manufacturers towards in-house engine fitment is now well established. Over the past decade, we have watched with intense interest as the iconic American truck brands have, one by one, increasingly adopted vertical integration as the logical way forward. This means movement away from the traditional US recipe, where truck builders offered operators a wide selection of driveline component combinations, emanating from Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Caterpillar, Eaton/Fuller, Spicer ArvinMeritor and Dana.

The change took root when global European-led groupings Daimler Trucks and Volvo gained control of American brands Freightliner, Western Star and Mack, and moved towards the type of in-house driveline component sourcing that is the norm on their home continent, in an effort to spread the amortization of development and production costs across the largest volume footprint possible.

In this respect, the incremental sales volume of heavy duty trucks generated in the North American market is vital to this strategy, so these groupings have brought some heavy marketing artillery to bear on changing American operators’ former prejudices against vertically integrated vehicle specifications.

Further fuel was added to the fire when Daimler took Detroit Diesel out of the “loose engine” market, and made it into a solely in-house power source, and Paccar, with its traditional product profile firmly rooted in the “kit truck” philosophy, announced that the DAF-designed MX (12,9-litre) and PX (9,2-litre) diesels were to be made available in Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. Even more significantly, it said that the MX would also be built in North America, giving additional credence to its commitment.

The remaining major US truck manufacturing group, Navistar International, had already been in the diesel engine manufacturing business for more than 75 years, although its heaviest trucks traditionally used bought-in engines. In December 2008, Navistar dedicated a new factory in Huntsville, Alabama, to build the MaxxForce “big-bore” range of 11 and 13-litre diesels derived from an alliance with Germany’s MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG, and these have been progressively installed in its premium products. However, a Cummins option has remained in place, mainly to satisfy operators who prefer 15-litre units.

Then, in 2009, Navistar and Caterpillar announced the formation of their truck joint venture, NC² Global LLC, and this opened an opportunity to glean a 15-litre powerplant from Cat’s previous lineup. Caterpillar’s earlier decision to exit the “loose engine” market for on-highway truck powerplants, however, meant that this unit had not been developed to meet the US EPA 2010 emission standards.

Work started immediately at the Navistar Engine Group to apply its Advanced Exhaust Gas Recirculation technology to the basic C15, and during March, Navistar was able to launch the EPA 2010 compliant MaxxForce 15. This 15,21-litre displacement engine, which had entered full-scale production at Huntsville in January, is equipped with dual sequential turbochargers, an intercooler and aftercooler, and comes with power outputs ranging from 325 to 410 kW (435 to 550 hp) coupled with torque ratings from 2 105 to 2 510 Nm (1 550 lb-ft to 1 850 lb-ft).

Navistar gets its 15-litre muscleNavistar has also launched its International PayStar severe service construction truck, and ProStar Plus linehaul tractor with the MaxxForce 15 option. In its previous life as the EPA 2007-compliant Cat C15, this engine used ACERT technology, comprising series turbochargers, variable valve control, high pressure multiple injection fuel system, electronics and an oxidation catalyst, as well as an enhanced combustion process (Clean Gas Induction), closed crankcase ventilation and a diesel particulate filter with active regeneration. CGI routed inert air from downstream of the particulate filter to the induction system.

Now, it gains Navistar’s A-EGR system to meet the EPA 2010 standard. Among US engine builders, only Navistar currently uses EGR, while others have opted for urea-based Selective Catalytic Reduction technologies.

Navistar has aggressively promoted the benefits of EGR in the belief that operators would find the need to manage the urea-based SCR systems, with the required regular refills of Diesel Exhaust Fluid, expensive and inconvenient. However, this has reportedly not hampered the sales of SCR-equipped models, and the debate on the relative benefits of the two systems rages on.

With so much at stake, there have also been allegations that operators of SCR units have by-passed more costly DEF refills by replenishing the exhaust after treatment reservoir with plain water, and that this practice is not deterred by the engine management system. The engine then allegedly operates with emissions in excess of the legislated standard. Navistar clearly needs this loophole to be closed so that its arguments in favour of A-EGR can prevail.

Cat Trucks enters North America
Last month, Global Focus carried details of the first Caterpillar-branded trucks in the world. These were the CT610 and CT630 bonneted 6x4 units that were launched by NC² into the Australian market earlier this year. When the formation of this alliance between Navistar and Caterpillar was first announced, however, it was stated that certain vocational trucks for the North American market would carry Cat branding. In the American context, “vocational” means that they are intended for applications other than general freight haulage, and this classification normally encompasses specialist vehicles such as tippers, truck mixers, refuse compactors, skip loaders and articulated lowbed machinery transporters.

During March, the first Cat truck model for North America was unveiled. Designated the CT660, this has manifested as a tandem-drive conventional (bonneted) unit with set-back front axle, and a selection of rear bogie options including a third steering axle. Power choices include CT-branded versions of the MaxxForce 11, 13 and 15 engines (as already discussed) offering an output range from 245 to 410 kW (330 to 550 hp), and these can be coupled to Cat’s CX31 electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission, or Eaton’s manual or UltraShift Plus automated mechanical transmissions.

Other features include inner rail reinforced chassis frame, two length options for the aluminium alloy cab, power-operated mirrors, halogen headlights, one or two-piece windscreens, air suspension driver’s seat, air-conditioning, and an interface for Cat’s Product Link telematics system.

Factory shipments of the CT660 will commence in July, and Cat has also announced that the next model in the North American line-up, the CT680, will become available in the first quarter of 2013. This will differ from the CT660 in having a set-forward front axle configuration.

Aussie market stats
Global Focus frequently draws attention to the Australian truck market, which, in many ways, is similar to the South African market. The major points of departure are Australia’s far more stringent emission regulations (the current ADR 80/03 standard approximates to Euro 5), and a heavier bias towards American truck brands and driveline aggregates at the upper end of the payload spectrum. It is always of interest, therefore, to track the fortunes of the various players in that market.

Results for the 2010 calendar year recently became available, divided into Light Duty (3 500-7 500 kg GVM), Medium Duty (7 500-15 500 kg GVM) and Heavy Duty (Over 15 500 kg GVM). Sales of Integral Panel Vans are not included in these statistics. Isuzu has a vice-like grip on both the lighter categories, and recently celebrated an unbroken run of 22 years as the overall leader when all three segments are added together.

Navistar gets its 15-litre muscleIsuzu’s 2010 market share in the Light segment was 38,2%, and an even more impressive 41,5% in the Medium category, reflecting the excellent acceptance of the recently introduced N and F Series products “down under”. Light commercial runner-up was Fuso, with 19% share, followed closely by Hino at 18,9%. None of the other participants managed more than 6% market share.

In the Medium Duty category, Hino occupied second position at 28%, with Fuso third on 16,6%. The combined market share of Japanese brands (including UD) in this segment was just short of 96%, which clearly illustrates the Australian preference for distribution trucks from this source. The European manufacturers, led by Mercedes-Benz at 2,2%, barely troubled the scorekeepers in this segment.

At the top end of the market, however, the picture is somewhat different. Clear Heavy Duty segment leader Kenworth captured 23,6% of the available business, followed by Volvo at 11,2%. The most successful Japanese brand – Isuzu, once again – was good for third spot and 9,3% of the volume. The somewhat unusual distribution arrangements prevailing in Australia groups Western Star (9,1%) with MAN (2,1%), but if the other global families are added together, the following HCV pecking order emerges: PACCAR (Kenworth plus DAF) – 25,7%, Volvo (Volvo plus Mack plus UD) – 21,6%, Daimler Trucks (Mercedes-Benz plus Freightliner plus Fuso) – 14,9%.

The long successful runs by Isuzu, as overall truck market leader, and Kenworth, as the HCV brand of choice, indicate the fierce loyalty of Australian operators to the suppliers that give them the products and back-up that they demand. This does not augur well for new entrants to the market, as is confirmed by the long-running battles of extremely successful global manufacturers such as Daimler and Iveco to improve their penetration performances. However, history shows that any complacency can be dangerous, and with a long queue of new market entrants from China, Korea and India on the horizon offering attractive value propositions, there will be no opportunity for the current market leaders to rest on their laurels.

Daimler’s Euro 6 engine
In the European Union countries, the current Euro 5 emission standards are due to be replaced by stricter Euro 6 rules in January 2013 for new truck model introductions, and one year later they will also come into force for all newly registered vehicles. History has shown that the implementation of new regulatory standards in major markets is likely to prompt the introduction of many new models, or at least, substantial upgrades.

Navistar gets its 15-litre muscleIn this case, Daimler Trucks has been quick off the mark, and has already revealed details of the new engine that will be used to ensure that its premium European truck models are ready for the event.

Of even more significance than compliance itself, is that this new engine will be the first European application of Daimler’s global Heavy Duty Engine Platform, which has been progressively rolled out since 2007. First into production was the Detroit Diesel DD15 variant, followed by the DD13, DD16 and Fuso 6R10 versions, and now the 12,8-litre OM 471 is being introduced, which, as the designation suggests, will carry Mercedes-Benz badging.

This engine, with its six-cylinder in-line layout, marks a significant departure from Mercedes’ recent reliance on V-format engines in its most powerful road trucks. It also sports the usual mixture of HDEP features including amplified common-rail X-PULSE multiple event injection system, synthetic sump, compacted graphite one-piece cylinder head, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and three-stage 400 kW (544 hp) exhaust brake, but design adaptions to the European version include specific fuel injection nozzles, asymmetric fixed-geometry turbocharger, flywheel, Motor Control Module electronics, exhaust system, two-cylinder air compressor and tuning. Euro 6 compliance is achieved through a combination of cooled exhaust gas recirculation, particulate filter and urea-based SCR.

Power outputs will range from 310 to 375 kW (421 to 510 hp), and torque ratings from 2 100 to 2 500 Nm (2 850 to 3 400 lb-ft). Although the OM 471 will be new to Europe, the HDEP family has already gathered considerable in-service mileage. Total testing and service distance to date is claimed to exceed 60 million kilometres, racked up by more than 50 000 engines already delivered in Freightliner and Fuso products. This has resulted in a claimed design life, under European conditions, of 1,2 million kilometres before major overhaul.

Interestingly, Daimler says there have also been “customer driving tests in the Mercedes-Benz Actros”. This raises an important point: How does a long-stroke six-cylinder in-line engine fit into a space specifically designed for a low-profile V-format powerplant? Logic suggests the shape of the sheet metal making up the cab floor will need to be radically altered to accommodate the OM 471 and its associated componentry. Also of note is that Daimler has omitted, thus far, to provide any advance clues as to the models that will use the OM 471 from 2013.

Well, stand by for an important new model announcement, some time ahead of the 2012 Hannover IAA Show! We are of the opinion that this will be the logical timing for Mercedes-Benz to launch its replacement for the Actros, and we believe that it is likely to come with a different name. Remembering the massive technological leap that was made by the original Actros in 1996, we can only wonder if the new model will follow a similar radical path, or whether Daimler will take a slightly more conservative approach this time. Whatever, we look forward to that event with relish!

 


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

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