Spooked Cats look­ing to stray

Cater­pil­lar en­gine op­er­a­tors want an­swers on fu­ture sup­plies, writes GRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

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.

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