NEW DOG ON THE HORI­ZON

Owner Driver - - Contents -

Mack’s new An­them is on the road in the US. Now the count­down for an Aus­tralian launch is on

The day’s com­ing when Mack in Aus­tralia will launch a new model called the An­them, bear­ing fea­tures long over­due in the bull­dog breed. More to the point, An­them is a spear­head which gives Mack’s Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion ac­cess to US de­vel­op­ments aimed at in­ject­ing new life into the iconic brand. Steve Brooks filed this de­tailed re­port from the big ken­nel in the USA

IN ANOTHER YEAR, or maybe a lit­tle more, Mack will in­tro­duce a new model to the Aus­tralian mar­ket. It will be the Mack An­them and, on the sur­face, it’ll sim­ply step into the shoes of the cur­rent Gran­ite model. Have no doubt, though, this rad­i­cally restyled replacement means much more to Mack in Aus­tralia than the sup­plant­ing of one model for another. Far more than a bold new look and an in­trigu­ing new name, it comes with at­tributes that will flow to al­most every model in the cur­rent Mack range. In part or in full, An­them rep­re­sents a re­drawn line in the sand for Mack – both here and in its US heart­land. Evo­lu­tion­ary more than rev­o­lu­tion­ary, it is none­the­less a mile­stone model that marks the point where the sta­tus quo has been re­fash­ioned, re­formed and roundly re­ju­ve­nated in a bold bid to dra­mat­i­cally broaden the bull­dog’s busi­ness hori­zons.

It is all part of a de­tailed story which, ob­vi­ously enough, starts in Amer­ica but also stretches deep into Mack’s mod­ern his­tory on both sides of the Pa­cific. First launched with great fan­fare and hype in the US in the back half of last year, and show­cased more re­cently as one of very few new mod­els at the Mid-Amer­ica Truck­ing Show in Louisville, Ken­tucky, An­them is the pointy end of a de­lib­er­ate and care­fully planned as­sault on the North Amer­i­can in­ter­state line-haul busi­ness.

Yet, as sev­eral Mack se­nior ex­ec­u­tives in the US con­ceded, it won’t be easy crack­ing big­ger num­bers in a North Amer­i­can mar­ket not only rife with pow­er­ful com­peti­tors but also a large sec­tor of the mar­ket which, for many years, has not viewed Mack as a front-line can­di­date for long-dis­tance work.

The thing is, while Mack con­tin­ues to per­form par­tic­u­larly well in heavy-duty vo­ca­tional roles such as waste col­lec­tion, con­crete de­liv­er­ies and sundry spe­cial­ist ap­pli­ca­tions, the North Amer­i­can long-dis­tance sec­tor has not been a happy hunt­ing ground for the leg­endary bull­dog over the past few decades.

Still, it hasn’t been for a lack of try­ing. At least, not com­pletely. Mod­els such as Vi­sion and the cur­rent Pin­na­cle have man­aged to main­tain a Mack pres­ence in North Amer­ica’s pre­mium long-haul sec­tor but, from any an­gle, the pres­ence is mar­ginal at best.

Even so, dur­ing a spe­cial An­them pre­sen­ta­tion at Mid-Amer­ica, Mack Trucks ex­ec­u­tives, in­clud­ing se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of sales and mar­ket­ing Jonathan Ran­dall and di­rec­tor of prod­uct strat­egy Roy Horton, con­ceded that Pin­na­cle is to­day a ‘tired’ de­sign.

Strangely, they were just as quick to re­fute any sug­ges­tion the model has failed to meet de­sign ob­jec­tives or, worse, been an un­suc­cess­ful prod­uct.

Their con­tention, it seems, is that each time Mack has as­pired to a higher level of com­pet­i­tive­ness in high­way roles, first with Vi­sion and later Pin­na­cle, mar­ket heavy­weights have re­sponded by re­leas­ing even more en­tic­ing prod­ucts.

The re­sult, in­vari­ably, has been that the bull­dog has come up short, left scur­ry­ing for the at­ten­tion of cus­tomers who, for any num­ber of rea­sons, had come to view Mack as some­thing other than a main­stream in­ter­stater.

Con­se­quently, the num­bers speak for them­selves, with re­cent mar­ket fig­ures show­ing Mack hold­ing a puny 1.5 per cent or there­abouts of Amer­ica’s pre­mium line-haul mar­ket. Hardly the stuff of leg­end.

Yet it wasn’t al­ways that way. Not by a long shot. Back in the mid-’70s, Mack was a seem­ingly in­domitable pow­er­house in the US long-dis­tance busi­ness and, just as it is to­day, a pow­er­ful player

in vo­ca­tional roles. By any mea­sure, a po­tent and force­ful mar­ket leader, a builder of tough trucks with its own gutsy en­gines and en­dur­ing driv­e­lines. Record­ing that era in ca­nine chronol­ogy, a mu­seum in Mack’s cus­tomer cen­tre in Penn­syl­va­nia is crammed with priceless ex­am­ples of the dog’s glory days.

How­ever, as his­tory has demon­strated with var­i­ous brands over the past half cen­tury or so, Mack back then made the near­fa­tal mis­take of be­com­ing a com­pany con­vinced of its own in­vin­ci­bil­ity and en­ti­tle­ment. A com­pany where its top ex­ec­u­tives flew around the US in a small fleet of cor­po­rate air­craft, loung­ing on the ex­ec­u­tive ex­cesses of ar­ro­gance and ap­a­thy. All while com­peti­tors kept push­ing the prod­uct en­ve­lope to ever-higher heights, ul­ti­mately leav­ing the be­lea­guered bull­dog to chew on what was left of an in­creas­ingly bare bone.

Of course, some­thing had to give, and it did, with French au­to­mo­tive en­tity Re­nault first com­ing to the res­cue of the ail­ing dog. As events would soon show, though, the French weren’t par­tic­u­larly good at fix­ing their own prob­lems, let alone Mack’s.

For­tu­nately, the prag­matic Swedes took an in­ter­est and Mack ul­ti­mately be­came an in­te­gral part of Re­nault’s ‘as­sim­i­la­tion’ into Volvo’s bur­geon­ing em­pire. Sal­va­tion!

Big­ger bite

While all this was go­ing on, Mack’s promi­nence in the line-haul league was be­ing con­tin­u­ally whit­tled to the point where the fa­mous bull­dog brand be­came lit­tle more than a blip on the radar. Mean­time, low-slung cab-over mod­els that his­tor­i­cally tar­geted vo­ca­tional roles and have re­turned con­sis­tently strong re­sults for decades gave rise to the be­lief that Mack’s new own­ers were per­haps con­tent to leave line-haul to the ma­jor play­ers and in­stead con­cen­trate on the less glo­ri­ous but un­de­ni­ably valu­able vo­ca­tional sec­tors.

Then, last Septem­ber, along came An­them to bat­ter that be­lief into obliv­ion. Sud­denly, with a stand-up cab and fully in­te­grated 70-inch sleeper for the first time, plus a swathe of sim­i­larly new fea­tures in­clud­ing ad­vanced wiring and elec­tron­ics sys­tems, vastly greater em­pha­sis on driver com­fort and con­ve­nience, and the stan­dard in­clu­sion of the Bendix Wing­man sta­bil­ity con­trol pack­age, Mack was back in the long-dis­tance high­way busi­ness. Or, at least, back in the bid­ding for a big­ger bite of the bone.

Again, it won’t be easy in a con­ven­tional truck mar­ket where the likes of Freight­liner, Ken­worth, Peter­bilt, In­ter­na­tional, and cor­po­rate kin Volvo are sure to be less than par­tial to the emer­gence of a dressed-up dog with a rekin­dled lik­ing for life in the fast lane.

Like it or not, though, Mack now ap­pears bet­ter pre­pared for a line-haul lunge in the US than any time in the past three decades or more. Like­wise, the tim­ing of An­them’s in­tro­duc­tion prob­a­bly couldn’t be bet­ter with a strong Amer­i­can mar­ket con­tin­u­ing to buy trucks in huge num­bers, pro­vid­ing Mack an ideal plat­form to start on the long road to what Jonathan Ran­dall pre­dicts will even­tu­ally be a dou­ble-digit slice of the pre­mium line-haul busi­ness.

Iron­i­cally, while Volvo and Mack are arch ri­vals in North Amer­ica – due in no small part to the US mar­ket’s al­most to­tal reliance on con­ven­tion­als – Mack in­sid­ers are adamant that An­them is a sig­nif­i­cantly more pre­mium prod­uct than its Volvo coun­ter­part. What Volvo thinks of that con­tention re­mains un­known but it’s un­likely to be favourable given the Swedish brand’s no­tably higher take of the line-haul busi­ness than its bull­dog brethren.

What­ever the case, you’re left with the dis­tinct im­pres­sion that, in the US, Mack views Volvo as just another com­peti­tor in a hugely com­pet­i­tive mar­ket. And, no doubt, vice versa.

In the big pic­ture, though, there are far greater plans in play than the com­pet­i­tive in­stincts of two cor­po­rate co­horts. As chief ex­ec­u­tive and pres­i­dent of Volvo Group Martin Lund­st­edt told US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in Jan­uary this year dur­ing a high-level din­ner of global busi­ness lead­ers, the group in­tends to in­vest “north of two bil­lion dol­lars” in de­vel­op­ment pro­grams around its two North Amer­i­can name­plates. So, Mack or Volvo, the cor­po­rate ob­jec­tive re­mains the same: growth on a grand scale.

Down-un­der ken­nel

All this has un­folded while Mack’s Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion and the mod­els it pro­duces have, to a large ex­tent over many decades, evolved and ex­panded un­der their own steam and, in many re­spects, re­mote from US in­flu­ences.

What’s more, while Mack has strug­gled to build a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in the North Amer­i­can on-high­way mar­ket, the bull­dog has at least main­tained a re­spectable fol­low­ing in our part of the world in line-haul work de­spite the in­evitable up­heaval of cor­po­rate ac­qui­si­tions. In fact, Mack’s heavy-duty for­tunes have grown pro­gres­sively stronger un­der Volvo’s reign and, ac­cord­ing to the brand’s lo­cal lead­ers, they’ll grow even stronger once An­them’s fea­tures be­come an in­grained as­set in all mod­els ex­cept the short-haul Metro-Liner.

No ques­tion, Volvo’s own­er­ship of Mack has had dra­matic in­flu­ences here and over­seas but, for the most part, and de­spite the protes­ta­tions of Mack loy­al­ists seem­ingly obliv­i­ous to the dog’s pre­vi­ous predica­ments, those in­flu­ences have been hugely pos­i­tive. Of all the pos­i­tives, though, there are none greater than the fact that, if Volvo hadn’t bought Mack, the dog would be dead. Sim­ple!

Even so, when Volvo took over, Mack cab-over mod­els were quickly deleted from the Aus­tralian line-up while Volvo also dumped plans for a new con­ven­tional model sourced from the US. The plan for Aus­tralia was plain and pro­found: un­like the US, where it’s an all-con­ven­tional mar­ket, Mack would only sell con­ven­tion­als in Aus­tralia, and Volvo cab-overs.

De­spite the clear lines of com­pe­ti­tion, it re­mains hard to think of two more cul­tur­ally op­posed brands any­where in the truck­ing world than Mack and Volvo, and the merg­ing of the two en­ti­ties un­der a sin­gle cor­po­rate ban­ner has not been with­out its is­sues in the US and Aus­tralia alike.

Yet Mack has been for­tu­nate. Very for­tu­nate! For starters, the in­tro­duc­tion of ad­vanced, ef­fi­cient and fully in­te­grated Volvo Group pow­er­trains and driv­e­lines is, in prin­ci­ple, not dis­sim­i­lar to the all-Mack en­gine and driv­e­line dogma of days past.

Crit­i­cally, Mack has also been en­cour­aged – not that it needed much en­cour­age­ment ei­ther here or in the US – to staunchly main­tain its clas­sic iden­tity and nowhere does this ap­pear more ev­i­dent than in Aus­tralia, where the bull­dog her­itage of tough trucks work­ing in tough toil is alive and well in mod­els unique to Aus­tralia. And, vi­tally, built in Aus­tralia.

Maybe much of the Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion’s ap­par­ent au­ton­omy stems from our right-hand drive con­fig­u­ra­tion but, from the out­side look­ing in, it can ap­pear more than a tad ob­vi­ous that, his­tor­i­cally, Mack Aus­tralia has been largely free to do its own thing in the de­vel­op­ment of mod­els for this coun­try’s con­di­tions. Trucks like Ti­tan, Su­per-Liner, Tri­dent and Metro­Liner are bla­tant proof.

That free­dom, how­ever, is not in­fi­nite. Never has been, and never will be in a com­mer­cial world where costs and re­turn on in­vest­ment con­tin­u­ally and in­creas­ingly dic­tate what’s fea­si­ble and what’s not. Ad­mit­tedly, lo­cal pro­duc­tion at the Wa­col pro­duc­tion plant in Bris­bane con­tin­ues the long-es­tab­lished abil­ity to en­gi­neer the many changes rel­e­vant to Aus­tralian con­di­tions and needs; fuel ca­pac­i­ties, wheel­bases, cool­ing pack­ages, weight dis­tri­bu­tion, and even some mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the cab – in­side and out.

Struc­turally, how­ever, the pat­tern is largely set by the fun­da­men­tal de­signs forged in the US, and when it comes to the long-serv­ing, all-steel cab shared by all Mack mod­els in Aus­tralia, not a great deal can be done to al­ter the core struc­ture.

The eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of ma­jor re-en­gi­neer­ing of the cab for the rel­a­tively low vol­umes of the Aus­tralian mar­ket just doesn’t stack up. Therein re­sides a prob­lem. The prob­lem of a cab, durable and proven as it most cer­tainly is, lack­ing those mod­ern in­te­gral fea­tures now avail­able from com­peti­tors. One com­peti­tor in par­tic­u­lar: Ken­worth!

It is, of course, no great rev­e­la­tion to re­port that Mack does not cur­rently have a stand-up cab. Nor is it un­rea­son­able to sug­gest that Mack’s in-cab lay­out is to­day staid and in need of an up­date. It has been that way for quite some time and, all things con­sid­ered, a po­tent and ef­fi­cient ‘group pow­er­train’ led by MP8 and MP10 en­gines feed­ing into a slick mDrive au­to­mated shifter has been a ma­jor fac­tor in main­tain­ing Mack’s mar­ket strength de­spite aged de­signs in other ar­eas.

How­ever, the emer­gence of Ken­worth’s new T610 and, be­fore much longer, the T410, fur­ther ex­poses Mack’s short­com­ings and in­creases the pres­sure to mount a sub­stan­tial chal­lenge if it hopes to sti­fle Ken­worth’s com­mand­ing lead­er­ship of not just the heavy-duty con­ven­tional mar­ket but the heavy-duty mar­ket in gen­eral. After all, given the lack­lus­tre in­roads of Freight­liner and West­ern Star con­ven­tion­als in re­cent years, who else but Mack cur­rently has the ca­pac­ity to check Ken­worth’s mo­men­tum with the T610?

And this is where An­them comes into the pic­ture. Big time!

Gran­ite go­ing

For the head of Mack Aus­tralia, the ‘Big Dog’ him­self, vi­cepres­i­dent Dean Best­wick, An­them sim­ply can’t come quick enough. Ad­mit­tedly, the bur­geon­ing early suc­cess of Ken­worth’s T610 has been a driv­ing fac­tor in mak­ing An­them a pri­or­ity, but it’s an adamant and jus­ti­fi­ably ex­u­ber­ant Best­wick who in­sists the truly big mo­ti­va­tion is in the po­ten­tial An­them pro­vides for Mack – ev­ery­thing from sin­gle trailer to truck and dog work, to line-haul B-dou­bles and road train du­ties.

Again, how­ever, the full An­them pack­age with the rad­i­cally restyled hood will only be seen in the di­rect replacement for the cur­rent Gran­ite model.

Crit­i­cally, though, it’s what An­them pro­vides on the in­side for Ti­tan, Su­per-Liner and Tri­dent that has Best­wick and his bull­dog brethren most ex­cited.

It’s still early days, and while the An­them pack­age for Aus­tralia is cur­rently be­ing de­fined and re­fined, the long-awaited ar­rival

“It’s a truck that ac­tu­ally looks far bet­ter in the flesh.”

of a fully in­te­grated stand-up cab cou­pled to a range of welle­quipped, lo­cally trimmed sleeper op­tions has Mack drool­ing with an­tic­i­pa­tion.

“An­them will give us a mas­sive boost,” said an unashamedly up­beat Dean Best­wick dur­ing an im­promptu in­ter­view in the spa­cious sur­rounds of an An­them cab and 70-inch sleeper on the Mack stand at the Mid-Amer­ica truck show.

Another vis­i­tor to Mid-Amer­ica was Volvo Group Aus­tralia se­nior prod­uct man­ager Scott Simp­son, who will have a ma­jor hand in An­them’s test­ing and val­i­da­tion for the Aus­tralian mar­ket. Calm and thought­ful, it was a can­did Simp­son who con­fi­dently re­marked: “There’s a lot to like and, from what

I’ve seen, there are no glar­ing is­sues in dura­bil­ity terms. The gus­set­ing they’ve done to strengthen the cab for the higher roofline seems re­ally strong.

“It’ll go through plenty of test­ing be­fore it’s re­leased in Aus­tralia,” he added, “but we al­ready know this is a durable cab and with An­them there are a lot of im­prove­ments in a lot of ar­eas. I’d say they’ve done a re­ally good job with it.”

It was high praise from a man with an en­gi­neer’s nat­u­ral propen­sity for cau­tious com­men­tary.

Mean­time, back in the show truck, a suc­cinct Dean Best­wick con­tin­ued: “We’re com­pet­i­tive now with our cur­rent range of mod­els but the things An­them pro­vides will make us even more com­pet­i­tive. Far more com­pet­i­tive.

“It’s a new ball game for us. The days of build­ing trucks from the ground up for Aus­tralia can’t be done any­more. The num­bers, the eco­nom­ics, just don’t stack up. The world has changed.

“We need more from Amer­ica and An­them pro­vides the things we want. Sim­ple as that.”

Co­de­named the P7605 project, An­them was more than four years in de­vel­op­ment and test­ing be­fore pro­duc­tion started in earnest last Fe­bru­ary at Mack’s Le­high Val­ley (Ma­cungie) fa­cil­ity in Penn­syl­va­nia.

The Ma­cungie plant was built dur­ing Mack’s glory days in the mid-’70s and, ac­cord­ing to Rickard Lund­berg, a pro­duc­tion spe­cial­ist from Volvo Group Trucks, and vice-pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager of the Le­high Val­ley op­er­a­tion, not a great deal of rein­vest­ment went into the fa­cil­ity in the years lead­ing up to An­them’s de­vel­op­ment. An­them, how­ever, has gen­er­ated sig­nif­i­cant change, de­vel­oped in sync with an US$84 mil­lion re­ju­ve­na­tion of the Ma­cungie plant.

What’s more, it didn’t take a long tour in­side this re­mark­ably clean and or­derly fac­tory to ac­cept Lund­berg’s as­ser­tion of a pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity that now re­flects the best stan­dards of its cor­po­rate coun­ter­parts any­where. It is, he ex­plained, all part of a con­certed ef­fort to cre­ate an em­bold­ened new fu­ture for Mack, and An­them is the key.

The key to the start of a new era, ar­guably best de­fined by Rickard Lund­berg’s state­ment that pro­duc­tion of Mack cab-over vo­ca­tional mod­els has dropped to around 20 per cent, co­in­cid­ing with greater pro­duc­tion space now be­ing given to con­ven­tion­als in an­tic­i­pa­tion of An­them’s ac­cep­tance in the US mar­ket.

Strong mar­ket

A few hours’ drive away in Hager­stown, where the MP8 en­gine, mDrive au­to­mated trans­mis­sion and rear-axle as­sem­blies are pro­duced for the North Amer­i­can mar­ket, it’s much the same story of re­newed in­vest­ment as Mack pre­pares for an ex­pected in­crease in vol­umes on the back of An­them up­take in a strong US truck mar­ket.

In­ter­est­ingly, Hager­stown pro­duces only rear-axle as­sem­blies for the Aus­tralian mar­ket, with our MP8 and MP10 en­gines and mDrive trans­mis­sions sup­plied from Volvo Group fac­to­ries in Europe. What­ever, it’s all good news for Dean Best­wick. Like a big kid in a toy fac­tory, the wide grin as he pointed out dif­fer­ent cab and sleeper com­bi­na­tions while var­i­ous An­them mod­els trav­elled down the Ma­cungie line re­vealed the re­mark­able level of ex­cite­ment sur­round­ing An­them’s po­ten­tial for Aus­tralia.

“When I first heard of this project about four years ago, I couldn’t get to the US quick enough to see what was in it for us, and right from the start I knew there was plenty,” he said with ab­so­lute con­vic­tion. “The more the de­vel­op­ment went on, the more I could see it had the things we want, and the more I let ev­ery­one know we wanted them and needed them.”

With­out too much sur­prise, top of the list was a greatly mod­ernised ver­sion of the ex­ist­ing cab struc­ture that al­lowed a tall driver of 1.8 me­tres and more (six feet-plus) to stand up­right from the driver’s seat and ac­cess a large, well-equipped sleeper sec­tion. It’s some­thing Dean Best­wick ad­mits has been high on the ‘wish list’ for a long time, along with a sub­stan­tially mod­ernised dash and con­trol lay­out. In An­them, Mack gets both, plus plenty else.

As things stand at the mo­ment, An­them is of­fered in the US as a day cab and two sleeper mod­els, one a 48-inch flat-roof unit and the other, the flag­ship 70-inch sleeper ver­sion with gen­er­ous stand­ing room from the driver’s chair to the bunk.

Dean Best­wick, how­ever, ad­mits he’s ea­ger to see de­vel­op­ment of a shorter sleeper with the high-rise cab, specif­i­cally for Aus­tralian B-dou­ble ap­pli­ca­tions. “We want ev­ery­thing An­them has and we’ll be aim­ing to tap as many op­tions as pos­si­ble,” he em­pha­sised, cit­ing an ex­ten­sive range of trim and equip­ment pack­ages for both the cab and sleeper.

Right-hand drive Aus­tralian mod­els will, of course, be as­sem­bled at Wa­col, with cabs ar­riv­ing largely in bare bones white, and all paint, trim and in­ter­nal fit­tings done in the Bris­bane fac­tory.

Mean­time, a short drive from the Le­high Val­ley plant, Mack’s cus­tomer cen­tre sits aside a test track that, on a cold and snowy Penn­syl­va­nia af­ter­noon, pro­vided the op­por­tu­nity to get be­hind the An­them wheel for the first time.

A few hours was cer­tainly enough to whet the ap­petite, with two en­gi­neer­ing de­vel­op­ment units pro­vided for stints on the track – one a day cab, the other a flat-roof sleeper model.

Each towed a loaded trailer and was pow­ered by a 430hp ver­sion of the 13-litre MP8 en­gine (the big­gest dis­place­ment now used by Mack in North Amer­ica) driv­ing through the mDrive au­to­mated trans­mis­sion which, like its com­pet­i­tive coun­ter­parts, con­tin­ues to find favour with US op­er­a­tors as driver con­ve­nience and re­ten­tion be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant.

So, let’s start with the most ob­vi­ous fea­ture of all: that hood, which, apart from its unique ap­pear­ance, also uses an in­no­va­tive lock­ing mech­a­nism be­hind the lower edge of the grille in place of nor­mal lock-down clamps on the rear cor­ners. What’s more, Mack in­sid­ers says the grille de­sign not only en­hances aero­dy­namic ef­fi­ciency and fuel econ­omy but also pro­vides am­ple air­flow to fur­ther aid cool­ing ca­pac­ity.

Any­way, while first pic­tures of An­them may have con­jured thoughts of a chunky mix of mec­cano with a touch of Tonka, the con­sen­sus among our small group was that it’s a truck that ac­tu­ally looks far bet­ter in the flesh. Ap­peal­ing, even, and quintessen­tially Mack.

Still, opin­ions are sure to vary but there is, of course, much more to An­them than first meets the eye. There’s no ques­tion, for in­stance, that the ma­jor­ity of ex­ist­ing Mack mod­els in Aus­tralia will ben­e­fit greatly from An­them’s as­sets, es­pe­cially on the in­side.

For the driver, it’s a hugely im­proved en­vi­ron­ment with main gauges and in­stru­ments ideally sited each side of a cen­tral dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion screen, while the lay­out of con­trol wands and switches for a mul­ti­tude of cur­rent and new func­tions is neater and vastly more prac­ti­cal than the cur­rent out­dated de­sign.

Like the hood, though, some will find the steer­ing wheel odd with its straight sec­tion near the driver’s waist. Un­usual, sure, but also a very clever and ef­fec­tive way of in­creas­ing belly room for those with a gen­er­ous girth, es­pe­cially the short, stumpy types who need to be up close to the wheel.

That’s about it, for now. It was a tad dis­ap­point­ing not to drive a stand-up cab ver­sion with the 70-inch sleeper but a close look at mod­els on the Mack stand at Mid-Amer­ica at least high­lighted the ex­ten­sive work that has gone into mak­ing An­them a line-haul truck with all the space, con­ve­nience and crea­ture com­forts of a pre­mium player in a tough game.

Yet de­spite the ex­cite­ment of An­them’s ob­vi­ous po­ten­tial for Mack in Aus­tralia, there’s a long road to travel be­fore the new model and its feast of fea­tures make their way onto our mar­ket.

The hard work, in fact, starts now. It’s no se­cret Aus­tralian con­di­tions can ex­tract frail­ties like nowhere on Earth and, for this rea­son above all else, a batch of four An­them de­vel­op­ment units – three sleeper mod­els and a day cab unit – are about to un­dergo what Dean Best­wick de­scribed as “high-fre­quency test­ing on bad roads in sin­gle trailer, B-dou­ble and road train dou­bles ap­pli­ca­tions”.

“We’re con­fi­dent the trucks will be right but we’ll be even more con­fi­dent once they’ve worked hard in our con­di­tions.”

Par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion, he added, will be paid to An­them’s elec­tri­cal sys­tems and fea­tures, and ob­vi­ously enough, struc­tural in­tegrity of the high-rise cab and sleeper.

As for the du­ra­tion of the test pro­gram and a pos­si­ble in­tro­duc­tion date, a se­ri­ous and un­usu­ally cau­tious Dean Best­wick con­cluded: “An­them’s in­tro­duc­tion will de­pend on the qual­ity lev­els achieved through the test­ing pro­gram and val­i­da­tion process.

“We’ve been wait­ing for An­them for a long time. A lit­tle while longer won’t hurt if it means mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing’s right.”

Ab­so­lutely, but don’t be sur­prised if An­them is Mack’s master­piece at next year’s Bris­bane Truck Show.

Stay tuned!

Above: Volvo Group Aus­tralia se­nior prod­uct man­ager, Scott Simp­son. “We al­ready know this is a durable cab and with An­them there are a lot of im­prove­ments in a lot of ar­eas” Op­po­site top & bot­tom: High hopes. Mack Trucks se­nior vi­cepres­i­dent of sales...

Be­low: Test truck. An­them cur­rently comes in three forms – day cab, 48-inch lo-roof sleeper (pic­tured), and the flag­ship stand-up cab with 70-inch sleeper. On the in­side, it’s a ma­jor ad­vance over ex­ist­ing de­signs

Above: ‘Plain Jane’ ver­sion of An­them rolls off Mack’s Le­high Val­ley pro­duc­tion line in Penn­syl­va­nia. An­them de­vel­op­ment co­in­cided with an US$84 mil­lion re­ju­ve­na­tion of the long-serv­ing fac­tory

Be­low: Short-haul spe­cial­ist. A US Gran­ite model clears snow from an in­ter­state high­way. In Aus­tralia, An­them will re­place Gran­ite com­pletely

Above: In­side view of an An­them cab on dis­play at the Mid-Amer­ica Truck­ing Show. Prac­ti­cal ef­fi­ciency and driver con­ve­nience were high on the de­sign agenda

Be­low: Big Dog! Mack Aus­tralia vice-pres­i­dent Dean Best­wick, jus­ti­fi­ably ex­cited by the po­ten­tial An­them brings to Mack’s Aus­tralian range

Above: Bring it on. Dean Best­wick at Mack’s Penn­syl­va­nia test track. An­them can’t come quick enough but he won’t com­mit to a launch date un­til ex­ten­sive Aus­tralian test­ing val­i­dates qual­ity and dura­bil­ity stan­dards

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