Spooked Cats looking to stray
Caterpillar engine operators want answers on future supplies, writes GRAHAMSMITH
THE phones at Cummins dealers are running hot as Caterpillar operators, spooked by the US company’s decision to pull out of the on-highway truck engine business, turn to Cat’s arch-rival to secure their future engine supply.
It’s a move no devoted Caterpillar fan would ever have even contemplated, but so spooked have they become that they are considering switching their allegiance from the yellow engine to the one painted red.
The move is being further fuelled by the lack of information from Caterpillar locally about plans for the Australian market.
Caterpillar’s June announcement related specifically to the North American market.
In the company’s announcement George Taylor, director of Caterpillar’s global onhighway engine business, said Caterpillar would not supply engines to the North American market from 2010, the year the next round of exhaust emission limits are due to be introduced in America.
But that doesn’t address the Australian market, which will be moving to the equivalent of US EPA 2007 engines, the ones that Caterpillar is currently selling in the US, at around the same time the company quits the US engine market.
Caterpillar could continue to supply US EPA07 engines to Australia operators after it has withdrawn from the US market.
An insider at Kenworth, the largest single user of Caterpillar engines in Australia, says Caterpillar’s local management doesn’t seem to know what will happen and is waiting for its US management to clarify the situation.
At the time Big Wheels went to press, Kenworth managing director Joe Rizzo was on his way back to Australia after visiting PACCAR headquarters in the US.
One topic for discussion was no doubt PACCAR’s engine plans beyond Caterpillar.
PACCAR is developing its own heavy-duty diesel engine platform based on the engine built in Europe by its Dutch offshoot DAF.
Rizzo has previously confirmed it will be sold here in locally built Kenworths by 2011.
No doubt he will be keen to ensure the engine is available as planned, or earlier, to ensure Kenworth isn’t totally reliant on Cummins for its engines.
Selling Caterpillar fans on a Europeandeveloped engine is likely to be a tough task, and Caterpillar’s move could back Australia’s top heavy-duty truck maker into a corner.
Rizzo has to settle the company’s engine plans sooner rather than later, with Caterpillar operators very nervous about engine supply.
They’re not only concerned their favourite engine will no longer be sold, but are equally concerned about the continuing availability of parts and service for the engines they have.
So serious are the concerns that they are beginning to have an adverse affect on the resale value of Caterpillar-powered trucks.
Operators concerned about losing money are also reluctant to commit to new trucks with Cat engines, which adds to the pressure truck makers like Kenworth are feeling.
Daimler Trucks says it’s business as usual for Freightliner and Sterling, both of which offer Caterpillar and Detroit Diesel engines.
Local management has been assured by Freightliner and Sterling in North America they will continue to be able to supply Caterpillar engines in the foreseeable future.
At the same time, however, Freightliner is moving to introduce Cummins engines across its North American range and that is likely to flow on to trucks built for Australia.
Daimler’s Australian management is expecting an announcement from Caterpillar by the end of August confirming its local plans.
Cat out: operators like Kenworth are looking for settled details of future engine providers.