CAT really rocks
Australia’s newest truck makes its debut, writes James Stanford
THE world’s first CAT truck has been launched in Australia. NC2, a venture between Caterpillar and US truck giant Navistar, presented the new trucks in the shadow of Uluru.
They are heavily based on the American International Prostar and Transtar trucks, which have not been available in Australia, but have some minor styling differences.
The first batch of 350 CAT trucks have the last of the real CAT onhighway engines, the C13 and C15, which are no longer available in other trucks.
CAT is rushing to make as many trucks at its Tullamarine plant before the end of the year when emission rules will see both engines phased out. Big Wheels will reveal the future engine plans for CAT trucks next week.
NC2 flew customers, potential customers, key CAT dealer staff and media to Uluru for the all-important launch. Its trucks might have been on US roads for more than two years wearing International badges, but they are new to the Australian market.
Global chief Al Salteil says: ‘‘We have great ambitions for CAT trucks in Australia.’’
Asked if it could better the 250 a year sales of International sales under Iveco, Salteil says: ‘‘In my mind, absolutely.’’
NC2 Australia sales and marketing general manager Jeff Tyzack says the feedback from the launch has been positive.
‘‘The interest has been fantastic. We’ve had strong orders to this point and we’ve had more people commit this weekend.’’
Big Wheels canvassed several potential buyers and the responses were generally positive.
‘‘ We know it is a rebadged Navistar International truck, but that’s OK. It looks like a pretty good truck,’’ one potential customer says.
Another two say there are a few minor issues with the truck, but are confident they’d be ironed out. ‘‘It is a new brand for Australia. They’ll sort this stuff out as they go.’’
The main gripe seemed to relate to the lack of space next to the clutch pedal, which is only a problem with right-hand-drive trucks because the turbo chargers take up a lot of space on the right side of the engine. It seemed a minor issue rather than a deal-breaker, though.
No driving was done at the launch, but an inspection of the trucks left a good impression.
The engineering appears sound and the interior is comfortable and practical. All of the plastic surfaces appear very good for a mass-pro- duced American truck, with quality switchgear, and the seats are comfortable (at a standstill anyway).
Prices will be crucial but Tyzack makes it clear that CAT trucks won’t be cheap.
‘‘This is a premium truck with premium engines, supported by a premium dealer network,’’ he says.
The International versions of these trucks have been on the market for two years, but there has been very little Australian testing.
Tyzack says the International trucks the CAT rigs are based on have been given a hard workout overseas. ‘‘The platform has been running in South America, places such as Mexico, Colombia, all the places they run heavy. It’s hot, the roads are pretty crappy— definitely worse than Australia.’’
Thomas Baughman is NC2’ s product development chief and he developed the original International trucks as well as the right-hand-drive CAT versions.
He is confident the US test regimen is thorough, but says NC2 would have done more testing if the timetable for the introduction of the CAT trucks was not so tight.
CAT is offering two models — the CT610 and CT630.
The 610 has a GCM (gross combination mass) of 24.5 tonnes and runs the six-cylinder C13 CAT engine which generates 346kW (470hp) at 2100 revs and 2237Nm (1650lb-ft) of torque at 1200 revs.
The 630 has a GCM of up to 90 tonnes running as a B-double when equipped with upgraded suspension.
It uses the C15 six-cylinder CAT engine which pumps out 410kW (550hp) at 1800revs and 2508Nm (1850lb-ft) at 2100 revs.
Both run an 18-speed Eaton Roadranger manual ( an Eaton automatic will be added in the future).
Axles are sourced from Meritor and the suspension uses Hendrickson airbags.
A 660mm sleeper cab is available as an option. It comes with a 660mm x 1840mm x 127mm lower bunk with an inner-spring mattress.
The CT610 and CT630 will be sold through Caterpillar’s existing CAT dealership network, which has been upgraded in preparation for the new products.
‘‘ Wehave great ambitions for CAT trucks in Australia
Ready to roll: (above and left) CAT trucks on the assembly line at Tullamarine.