READY FOR BATTLE
THE NEW CASCADIA REPORTS FOR DUTY
THERE are winds of change blowing through Daimler Trucks here in Australia.
The company has announced the forthcoming introduction of its new (to Australia) model, the Freightliner Cascadia.
Big Rigs was invited to the unveiling of this important truck recently in Melbourne.
While new to Australia, the Cascadia has been on the American market since 2007. This is not to say we will be getting an old model. Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is pulling out all the stops to ensure we will get the most up-to-date vehicle in this country and, just possibly, the world.
The importance the company has placed on this model was reflected by the people present at the Australian launch.
Freightliner Australia director Stephen Downes was joined by Daimler Truck and Bus (Australia) president, Daniel Whitehead, along with Richard Howard, senior vice-president of sales and marketing worldwide, and Ulrich Loebich, director of international sales, Daimler Trucks, North America.
Matt Smedley, senior manager of dealer development in America, launched Daimler’s ‘Elite Support’ program in that country and has been seconded to Australia for three years to develop the program here. Such is the commitment of the company to its Australian operations – not just in terms of truck sales but also to the after-sales experience.
Any salesman will tell you the easiest thing in the world to sell is a great product that you really believe in. The enthusiasm these gentlemen display for the Freightliner Cascadia is genuine and infectious. With good reason too, as this truck has been the best-selling heavy duty truck in the United States since 2009, as well as in Mexico and Canada.
But don’t rush out and open your wallet just yet. The second-generation Cascadia we saw is a test-bed for the Australian market. To be joined shortly by a more powerful version, these trucks are left-hand drive and the company has had to go to some effort with monitors and a plethora of cameras to gain approval for road use.
These trucks will join the 50 others that depart Daimler’s Portland, Oregon, headquarters every day with the sole purpose of racking up kilometres for durability testing. Loaded with state-of-the-art software, these vehicles feed a stream of live data back to the R&D department, allowing the company to continuously refine and develop every aspect of the truck.
Freightliner Australia will carry out exhaustive, multi-million dollar testing of the truck in local conditions to ensure the best possible specification is selected for this market.
“As far as we’re concerned, Cascadia is the best-of-the-best product,” said Richard Howard.
“In America we currently have at least 85,000 orders for the truck where we lead the market segment.
“The ability to use that platform, to bring a specific truck which is absolutely dedicated to the conditions here in Australia, and is absolutely aligned with the needs of our customers here, and the commitment from that point of view, is unprecedented within the Daimler Truck group.”
So, what of the truck itself? The model unveiled was, as mentioned a left-hand drive Day Cab model. The shape is distinctly American and is of a wind-cheating design. Indeed generation 2 has some 10 per cent fuel saving over gen1, with development of shape and collaboration with Detroit Diesel – 99% of American buyers plump for Detroit power and 92% opt for the auto/manual transmission.
The company spends a good chunk of its $1 billion per year R&D funding aiming for a year-on-year 5 per cent fuel improvement so we could reasonably expect the launch models in Australia to add another 10 per cent to that currently achieved.
Inside, the cab layout is logical and ergonomic. Everything falls to hand easily.
This evaluation model is automatic/manual and while we have yet to drive it, if it bears any semblance to the auto/manual Mercedes models we drove the following day (more on those in the next issue), we can think of no reason why anyone would plump for a manual. There’s nothing ‘slush’ about these incredibly intuitive ‘boxes.
Sleeper cabs will be
❝ As far as we’re concerned, Cascadia is the best-of-the-best product.
— Richard Howard
available up to 72”, up there with the best available in our market. Technically though, these vehicles are a tour-de-force.
Let’s talk disc brakes, air bags – not one, but two!
Engines placed lower for a better centre of gravity and with easier access for mechanics.
Let’s talk about adaptive cruise control, which allows you to travel from one side of a city to the other without ever touching the accelerator or brake.
Let’s talk about lane-keeping assist and the ability to platoon.
Then there’s the telematics which will keep the driver – and the company, and Daimler HQ – constantly informed about every aspect of the vehicle’s operation from wear and tear of parts to servicing requirements when they are needed, rather than when x kilometres turn over on the odometer.
The safety systems in this truck have changed one large American customer’s collision rates from one in four to one in 19. It has also reduced the cost of those collisions from $7000 to just $300.
We Australians love to trick up our trucks and Freightliner Cascadia should lend itself to being turned into a ‘bad boy’ for anyone so inclined.
Australia/New Zealand is a ‘minnow’ market compared to Freightliner’s overall base. The fact the company is prepared to invest $100 million into a right-hand drive development program specifically for us, speaks volumes of the importance and regard they hold for this market.
To be released in early 2020, the Freightliner Cascadia has the potential to turn this market on its head.
Big Rigs will keep you informed of the Australian development of this world-beater over the coming couple of years.
Meanwhile, maybe start putting your loose change into your piggy-bank. There’s a fair chance you’re going to want one of these.
Stephen Downes can’t wipe the smile off his face.
The new Cascadia.
Ergo interior ensures everything eis at hand.
GAME-CHANGER: The Freightliner Cascadia.
The Cascadia is being put to the test.