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Ken­worth se­cre­tive over Cum­mins’ X12

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IT’S NOW his­tory, but when Ken­worth lost Cat and Detroit en­gines from its power port­fo­lio, there was no short­age of scep­tics pre­dict­ing the truck maker’s tum­ble from the top of the heavy-duty lad­der.

Look­ing back, the scep­ti­cism was not un­jus­ti­fied. Af­ter all, Ken­worth had, for many years, made good mileage of its abil­ity to keep the cus­tomer sat­is­fied with a cus­tom-built truck of­fer­ing the choice of three hugely suc­cess­ful en­gine brands – Cat, Cum­mins and Detroit – each with its own le­gions of loyal sup­port­ers.

What’s more, there was no short­age of fierce com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the three en­gine mak­ers, with the con­test be­tween Cat and Cum­mins par­tic­u­larly bla­tant and bru­tal. Here were two en­gine mak­ers that seem­ingly loved to loathe each other, fos­ter­ing sim­i­larly po­tent pas­sions among a cus­tomer base pop­u­lated by in­cred­i­bly loyal pro­po­nents of each brand.

Ken­worth, un­der­stand­ably, thrived on the con­stant ri­valry that not only drove all three en­gine mak­ers to re­main sharp in per­for­mance and ser­vice, but like­wise kept pen­cils sharp when it came to tight com­mer­cial con­tests.

Of course, all that changed dra­mat­i­cally when Cat threw the towel in with its much ma­ligned de­ci­sion to desert the on-high­way truck en­gine busi­ness.

This hit hard at Ken­worth’s cus­tomer base and there are nu­mer­ous in­stances where men with yel­low blood cours­ing through their veins sim­ply would not buy a new Ken­worth or any other brand pow­ered by any­thing other than a Cat en­gine.

Strangely and il­log­i­cally, some cus­tomers even ac­cused Ken­worth of con­tribut­ing to Cat’s de­par­ture when, in fact, it was Cater­pil­lar’s de­ci­sion alone to cal­lously aban­don its tribes of de­fi­antly loyal cus­tomers. In­deed, the last thing Ken­worth and its Pac­car par­ent wanted to see was Cat’s exit from the busi­ness and a diminu­tion of the bat­tle be­tween the en­gine brands.

On the other hand, Detroit’s de­par­ture from Ken­worth’s books wasn’t quite so brazen, driven more by cor­po­rate com­pet­i­tive­ness than ab­ject aban­don­ment.

The thing is, Detroit Diesel had been ac­quired by Freight­liner par­ent Daim­ler and, in the United States es­pe­cially, Freight­liner was be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly in­va­sive com­peti­tor to Pac­car’s Ken­worth and Peter­bilt brands.

So whether it was Daim­ler de­cid­ing to no longer sell en­gines to Pac­car, or Pac­car re­fus­ing to buy any more Detroit en­gines, re­mains a moot point. The truth is prob­a­bly a bit of both.

For Pac­car Aus­tralia, the num­bers of Se­ries 60 en­gines slid­ing into Ken­worth chas­sis had been de­clin­ing for some time any­way – ex­haust gas re­cir­cu­la­tion (EGR) was de­liv­er­ing a slow and ag­o­nis­ing death to the once great Se­ries 60 – so the impact of Detroit’s de­par­ture wasn’t nearly as de­struc­tive as Cat’s ca­pit­u­la­tion.

Nonethe­less, Ken­worth, for the first time in its his­tory of build­ing trucks in Aus­tralia, found it­self with just one en­gine brand. Cum­mins!


In time, of course, Ken­worth would add the DAF-de­rived Pac­car MX 13-litre en­gine to the hugely pop­u­lar T4 fam­ily, of­fered along­side the 15-litre ISX Cum­mins.

Yet long be­fore the ar­rival of the MX, Cum­mins was the only en­gine avail­able in a Ken­worth, and it’s worth point­ing out again that plenty of peo­ple were will­ing to pre­dict Ken­worth’s slide from the top of the heavy-duty sales tree fol­low­ing the de­par­tures of Cat and Detroit.

Ken­worth has, how­ever, re­mained firmly en­sconced at the head of the pack and, among a myr­iad of rea­sons for the on­go­ing as­cen­dancy, is the fact that Cum­mins is an en­gine brand with

its own army of staunch ad­vo­cates and a sec­ond-to-none rep­u­ta­tion for ser­vice and sup­port.

As a se­nior Ken­worth in­sider con­fi­dently and qui­etly im­plied some years back, “If Ken­worth had to have just one en­gine brand, Cum­mins was cer­tainly the one to have.”

Still, that rep­u­ta­tion and con­fi­dence has been sorely tested over the past decade. In­deed, you’d have to be liv­ing un­der a tent in Tim­buktu to be ig­no­rant of the is­sues that have plagued Cum­mins with its 15-litre ISX EGR en­gine.

Ob­vi­ously Ken­worth wasn’t too im­pressed ei­ther, know­ing full well that the on­go­ing and seem­ingly in­grained fail­ure of ma­jor com­po­nents such as tur­bocharg­ers and EGR cool­ers were a sure­fire way to send cus­tomers – even loyal cus­tomers – shop­ping else­where.

It’s again a moot point, but whether it was Ken­worth push­ing Cum­mins hard for an al­ter­na­tive to the EGR en­gine (which is still avail­able in Ken­worth) or the early suc­cess of tri­als of the ISXe5 SCR en­gine, there’s no ques­tion the e5 was cat­a­pulted into the mar­ket and has sub­se­quently be­come an out­stand­ing suc­cess and huge relief for Ken­worth and Cum­mins alike. In ef­fect, fur­ther ce­ment­ing an as­so­ci­a­tion that has ex­pe­ri­enced its fair share of frus­tra­tions but has also de­liv­ered rich re­wards for both brands.

It was, there­fore, per­haps in­evitable that Cum­mins would not only be the power be­hind the bug in Ken­worth’s in­tro­duc­tion of its to­tally new T610 model, but that the new truck would also be the launch pad for a re­vised ren­di­tion of the 15-litre en­gine called the X15.

De­scribed as an evo­lu­tion­ary devel­op­ment of the ISXe5 which Cum­mins con­fi­dently in­sists is the big­gest-sell­ing en­gine in the Aus­tralian heavy-duty truck mar­ket, the X15 comes with a num­ber of at­tributes that most cer­tainly in­clude the slick mar­ket­ing ap­peal of a sharp new moniker. X15 just looks and sounds bet­ter than ISXe5.

Be­yond all else, though, Cum­mins has been quick to em­pha­sise the Euro 5 X15 uses the same hard­ware and SCR emis­sions tech­nol­ogy as the ex­ist­ing ISXe5 and, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by Cum­mins South Pa­cific man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew Penca, “… in­cor­po­rates all the prod­uct im­prove­ments since the ISXe5 re­lease in 2012 in­clud­ing power cylin­der, cylin­der head and tur­bocharger up­grades.”

Cum­mins in­sid­ers also re­port the X15 will have no prob­lem meet­ing the pro­posed Euro 6 emis­sions regime with much the same com­po­nents as the cur­rent en­gine.

Push­ing the point fur­ther, emis­sions tech­nol­ogy is no longer the driv­ing force of prod­uct devel­op­ment, says Cum­mins South Pa­cific di­rec­tor of on-high­way busi­ness Mike Fowler, who cites cus­tomer needs and ap­pli­ca­tion re­quire­ments as the dom­i­nant prin­ci­ples now guid­ing en­gine devel­op­ment.

With more than 6000 ISXe5 en­gines put to work in Aus­tralia and New Zealand since 2013, the X15 sim­ply builds on that suc­cess and, as Fowler puts it, “… is a sign of what is to come from Cum­mins in terms of sig­nif­i­cant ef­fi­ciency gains for our cus­tomers.”

Yet with the X15 util­is­ing the same hard­ware and of­fer­ing the same rat­ings as the ISXe5, from 450 to 600hp (336 to 447kW) and peak torque from 1650 to 2050ft-lb (2237 to 2779Nm), what makes it dif­fer­ent to the e5 other than a slick new badge?

The an­swer is found in yet an­other con­fus­ing, con­trived cor­po­rate ana­gram, in this in­stance called ADEPT, which in Cum­mins speak trans­lates to Ad­vanced Dy­namic Ef­fi­cient Pow­er­train Tech­nol­ogy.

Ba­si­cally, ADEPT is a suite of elec­tronic fea­tures de­signed specif­i­cally to work in ca­hoots with Ea­ton’s Ul­traShift Plus au­to­mated 18-speed trans­mis­sion, util­is­ing load, speed and grade-sens­ing tech­nol­ogy to more pre­cisely tai­lor power, torque and gear se­lec­tion for bet­ter fuel ef­fi­ciency.

In its first foray onto the Aus­tralian mar­ket, ADEPT also in­cludes sys­tems known as SmartCoast and SmartTorque.

As Cum­mins ex­plains: “SmartCoast op­er­ates when the ve­hi­cle is on a mod­er­ate down­hill grade by dis­en­gag­ing the front box of the trans­mis­sion and re­turn­ing the en­gine to idle to re­duce drag, main­tain mo­men­tum, and ul­ti­mately im­prove fuel econ­omy. Once the en­gine com­mands the trans­mis­sion to be put back in gear, the ap­pro­pri­ate gear is en­gaged.”

Mean­while, “SmartTorque uses torque man­age­ment in­tel­li­gence to help elim­i­nate un­nec­es­sary down­shifts and keep the en­gine op­er­at­ing in the most fuel ef­fi­cient ‘sweet spot’. Torque is var­ied across all gears de­pend­ing on torque re­quire­ment.

“Fur­ther fea­tures such as pre­dic­tive cruise con­trol will be added to ADEPT in the fu­ture,” Cum­mins adds.

Again, though, ADEPT fea­tures are only ap­pli­ca­ble to trucks fit­ted with Ea­ton’s Ul­traShift Plus au­to­mated box.

But wait, there’s more. The X15 also comes with Con­nected Di­ag­nos­tics, de­fined by Cum­mins as a “telem­at­ics sys­tem [which] au­to­mat­i­cally pro­cesses fault code data, send­ing in­stant no­ti­fi­ca­tions de­tail­ing prob­a­ble root cause and pro­vid­ing rec­om­mended ac­tions.

“The ex­pert ad­vice, de­liv­ered by email, app or web por­tal, en­ables the fleet man­ager to make an in­formed de­ci­sion about con­tin­u­ing truck op­er­a­tion and when to sched­ule a ser­vice visit for the most con­ve­nient time, thus max­imis­ing up­time.

“Ad­di­tional con­nected so­lu­tions to be added in the near fu­ture in­clude Over-the-Air (OTA) en­gine pro­gram­ming and cus­tomi­sa­tion. This will al­low an en­gine to be re­pro­grammed or up­dated with the lat­est cal­i­bra­tion with­out hav­ing to take the truck to a ser­vice bay.”

That’s about it for the X15, but have no doubt there’s an­other X in the Ken­worth equa­tion. For the time be­ing, though, it’s an equa­tion mired in cor­po­rate com­plex­ity.

“The Euro 5 X15 uses the same hard­ware and SCR emis­sions tech­nol­ogy as the ex­ist­ing ISXe5”

TOP 12

Just as the X15 is ef­fec­tively a di­rect off­shoot of the ISXe5, so too is the X12 a re­tagged ver­sion of the ISG12 en­gine which, in Ken­worth and West­ern Star mod­els, has been un­der­go­ing ex­ten­sive field tests in Aus­tralia for more than two years at peak out­puts of 500hp and 1700ft-lb of torque.

In ISG guise, the 12-litre en­gine made its first pub­lic ap­pear­ance at the 2015 Bris­bane Truck Show and has since been op­er­at­ing in sin­gle trailer and B-dou­ble ap­pli­ca­tions, with a num­ber of fleets well known for chalk­ing up big kilo­me­tres in roundthe-clock line-haul and in­trastate roles.

Ac­cord­ing to the few re­ports fil­ter­ing through, per­for­mance of the 12-litre in-line six has been sur­pris­ingly strong and fuel con­sump­tion highly im­pres­sive.

Cum­mins, how­ever, makes no se­cret of the fact that the “the field test pro­gram is solely a Cum­mins project, with en­gine in­stal­la­tion car­ried out at Cum­mins South Pa­cific head­quar­ters in Scoresby, Mel­bourne, and the com­pany’s en­gi­neer­ing team work­ing closely with the fleets se­lected for the pro­gram”.

Yet de­spite Cum­mins’ ini­tia­tive and the pos­i­tive re­ports from field tri­als, the newly named X12 has no chas­sis to call home. At least, not yet. For their part, se­nior West­ern Star ex­ec­u­tives have al­ready stated the en­gine will not be of­fered.

On the other hand, Ken­worth is at least more pos­i­tive, with sev­eral in­sid­ers un­of­fi­cially ac­knowl­edg­ing the X12’s po­ten­tial ap­peal to cus­tomers. Mean­time, quiet dis­cus­sions at the launch of the new T610, with a num­ber of key Ken­worth cus­tomers and deal­ers, re­vealed no short­age of in­ter­est in the 12-litre Cum­mins.

Right now, though, that’s as far as it goes and, de­spite what ap­pears to be a groundswell of re­served op­ti­mism in the en­gine’s prospects as a Ken­worth op­tion, there are no guar­an­tees the X12 will be on Ken­worth’s books any­time soon.

The rea­son for Ken­worth’s cau­tion con­cern­ing the X12 is not too dif­fi­cult to dis­cover. In­stalled in a Ken­worth T4 model, for in­stance, the X12 would be a di­rect com­peti­tor to Pac­car’s own 12.9-litre MX-13 en­gine and, while this may first ap­pear a good po­si­tion for Ken­worth to adopt in the in­ter­ests of cus­tomer ap­peal, it’s un­likely to be favoured by Pac­car Inc. in the US.

Af­ter all, and de­spite the fact that Aus­tralia’s MX-13 is de­rived from Europe, the US has in­vested many hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in devel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties for the North Amer­i­can MX.

Still, the con­nec­tion be­tween Pac­car and Cum­mins runs ex­tremely deep and, with al­most no like­li­hood of Pac­car de­sign­ing its own big­bore en­gine to ri­val or even re­place the X15, the pos­si­bil­ity of the X12 find­ing a niche in our part of the Ken­worth world is cer­tainly not out of the ques­tion.

Even so, Ken­worth’s local lead­ers are adamant that with up to 510hp (380kW) and 1850ft-lb (2508Nm) of torque, the MX-13 has eas­ily met the com­pany’s ex­pec­ta­tions in terms of mar­ket ac­cep­tance.

The thing is, though, parts of the mar­ket view the MX as a ‘DAF en­gine’ and, while Ken­worth de­nies any dis­ap­point­ment in ei­ther the sales or op­er­a­tional per­for­mance of the MX-13, the per­cep­tion hasn’t al­ways been en­tirely favourable.

Cum­mins, how­ever, has an ex­tremely long and strong his­tory with Ken­worth and its vast cus­tomer base – from the 8.9-litre ISLe5 en­gine in the T3 range to the lat­est X15 in the big boys.

What’s more, un­til the ar­rival of the new T610, which re­places the ISXpow­ered T409 model, the 15-litre Cum­mins was sold along­side the MX-13 in the T4 range; a fact that per­haps en­hances the case for the X12 to step into the shoes va­cated by its big­ger brother.

Be­sides, it’s not as if the X12 doesn’t have plenty to of­fer in a com­pact pack­age which, at less than 900kg, is said by Cum­mins to have not only the best power-to-weight ra­tio in its class but, vi­tally, in­her­ent tech­nol­ogy that will al­low it to meet Euro 6 emis­sions with­out any EGR in­put. By any mea­sure, that is a crit­i­cal fac­tor.

De­signed with a sin­gle in-head camshaft, the X12 also in­cor­po­rates the XPI com­mon-rail fuel sys­tem de­rived from its 15-litre sib­ling, gen­er­at­ing in­jec­tion pres­sures in ex­cess of 30,000psi to fur­ther im­prove com­bus­tion ef­fi­ciency and fuel econ­omy while also help­ing lower noise out­put.

There’s no doubt Ken­worth will care­fully weigh all the pros and cons be­fore any de­ci­sion is made on the X12. There is, how­ever, equally no doubt that, of­fered along­side the ver­sa­tile Pac­car MX-13 en­gine in the pop­u­lar T4 range, the 12-litre Cum­mins has the po­ten­tial to fur­ther strengthen Ken­worth’s grip on the top rung of the heavy-duty lad­der.

So far, re­quests for a stint be­hind the wheel of one of Cum­mins’ X12 test trucks have been un­suc­cess­ful. But then, maybe all good things ac­tu­ally do come to those who wait.

to call home … “The­newly named X12 has no chas­sis at least, not yet”

Cum­mins X15 at­tached to Ea­ton’s Ul­traShift Plus au­to­mated trans­mis­sion. X15 up­dates in­clude new soft­ware tai­lored specif­i­cally to the au­to­mated shifter

Cum­mins X12. Still look­ing for a home but there’s no doubt the en­gine has Ken­worth’s at­ten­tion

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