PACCAR TURNS UP THE HEAT
Locally assembled DAF trucks, a $37 million expansion program and a preview of Kenworth’s new T410 and T360 models – it’s all happening at Paccar HQ
The assembly of DAF trucks on the same production line as Kenworth also marks the start of a $37 million expansion program for Paccar Australia and its highly acclaimed Bayswater manufacturing facility. And if that’s not enough to keep the competition on its toes, we can exclusively reveal first details of Kenworth’s new T410 and
T360 models. Steve Brooks reports
BLANK THE BRAIN for a few seconds and you can almost hear the purists moaning in protest: “DAF being built on the same line as Kenworth. Never! No way! Can’t happen!” Well, they can moan all they like because not only can it happen, it is happening, and there are none happier about it than the people of Paccar Australia. At every level, from the factory floor to the executive echelons and sales teams within both the company and its influential dealer group, the optimism was almost palpable as the first DAF assembled at Paccar’s Bayswater (Vic) manufacturing plant recently rolled off the line.
Physically, DAF joins the production line at that point where the engine is slotted into the chassis. More to the point though, the sight of a CF cab – for now, the CF85 model is the only DAF being assembled at Bayswater – being lowered onto a typically European riveted chassis, right behind the making of a ‘big cab’ Kenworth K200, hammered home the realisation that the long-serving Bayswater facility has entered an entirely new era.
Indeed, if things go the way Paccar confidently expects, locally assembled DAFs will emerge in ever increasing numbers as the Dutch truck progressively undergoes homegrown modifications and specification tweaks all aimed at making DAF better equipped and significantly more appealing for Australian conditions.
In fact, such is Paccar’s confidence that the Bayswater facility is set to undergo a vast evolutionary expansion over the next three years. As Paccar Australia managing director Andrew Hadjikakou proudly explained, a $37 million investment in the Bayswater plant has been approved by Paccar Inc, giving the green light to a massive make-over, which will effectively double the physical footprint of the facility and see the installation of advanced robotics to not only enhance production efficiencies, but significantly bolster capacity to meet expected increases in demand for both DAF and Kenworth models.
In Australia’s otherwise beleaguered automotive industry, Paccar’s commitment and confidence in local production confirms the rare belief and fortitude of a very small, very successful band of local truck makers.
Meantime, and as much as it may go against the grain for some dedicated Kenworth disciples, the simple reality is that DAF has far greater potential for growth than its illustrious counterpart, and Paccar principals know it better than anyone. As a senior executive recently remarked in quiet conversation: “Kenworth currently has around 20 per cent of the heavy-duty market. DAF has little more than three per cent. It’s not hard to figure out which of the two has more room to grow.”
But let’s take a few steps back: It was in the last days of 2017 after a candid interview with Hadjikakou when we first broke the news that DAF would be assembled at the Bayswater plant from August, 2018 onwards. Plans were already well advanced and by June this year the first of three prototype production units was edging its way down the line.
Yet back then, news of Paccar’s plans to assemble DAFs at Bayswater was almost secondary to a more immediate event; production of the 60,000th locally-built Kenworth, with a special presentation in front of Paccar’s entire Bayswater workforce and invited guests. That truck was a new T610 model bought by high-profile haulage company and longtime Kenworth supporter, Wickham Freight Lines.
Fatefully, however, it was a blunt question born from a similar event a few weeks earlier that perhaps spurred Hadjikakou into first admitting to a well-advanced program to assemble DAFs at Bayswater: “If Volvo and Mack can be built together in the same factory, why can’t Paccar do the same with Kenworth and DAF at Bayswater?’ he was asked.
Thoughtful for a few moments, a smiling Hadjikakou
replied: “Funny you should ask, because that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
With the cat out of the bag and obviously keen to lay a few facts on the table, a jubilant Hadjikakou continued: “The local assembly of DAF trucks has been a discussion point within Paccar for the last few years, particularly as we’ve started to see our DAF volumes increase.
“Local assembly provides us with opportunities to develop higher levels of customisation in areas such as chassis lengths, fuel and AdBlue capacities, different suspension options, and other elements to further our commitment to meeting customer demands and the specific requirements of Australian applications.”
He eagerly acknowledged that Paccar Australia had mounted a strong case for Bayswater to join factories in the Netherlands, UK, Belgium and Brazil to become just the fifth DAF assembly or production facility in the world. Nor did he refute the suggestion that DAF volumes through Bayswater will be miniscule in comparison to European plants in particular.
Even so, it was a decidedly upbeat Hadjikakou who said approval for DAF assembly at Bayswater was not only a major initiative by Paccar and a good thing for DAF in this country, but also “… a great indication of the foresight and faith of our parent company, to invest in DAF’s future here, utilising the skills and facilities of Baywaster and its people.”
According to several sources, the inherent versatility of the Bayswater facility also allowed DAF to be merged into the production process for relatively small cost. What’s more, the economic benefits of local assembly over the importation of fully built-up units is said to be considerable, given that assembly kits for up to eight trucks can be packed into just five containers.
“It makes perfect sense to do this … to employ the skills and quality workmanship of our employees and further utilise the world-class engineering and production facilities of our Bayswater plant,” Hadjikakou said when announcing the decision late last year.
Then and now, he doesn’t shy from mentioning that Paccar has been building trucks at Bayswater for 47 years and given the contribution of DAF assembly to the factory’s viability, it will continue to build trucks “… for at least the next 47 years”.
Planned or otherwise, completion of the three-year expansion program will almost certainly coincide with the 50th anniversary of truck production at Bayswater.
It generally takes something highly significant, even momentous, for Paccar to ‘go public’ with a particular initiative or a notable milestone; in recent times, something
“Kenworth currently has around 20 percent of the heavy-duty market. DAF has little more than three percent.”
like the introduction of a hallmark new model such as the T610 or the notching of the 60,000th Australianbuilt Kenworth.
Or, as Paccar sees it, a historic moment marking the first DAF truck assembled in Australia.
Likewise, it’s usually a prominent and loyal customer who gets to share the limelight which, in the case of the first Bayswater-built DAF, was well-known Victorian company, Cahill Transport.
Headquartered at Laverton in Melbourne’s truck-centric west, brothers Dan and Michael Cahill are the third generation of a proud family-owned entity with a vibrant history in the freight business and an undeniably strong association with Paccar.
Kenworth has figured in the company’s linehaul operations for several decades and speaking at a hand-over ceremony inside the Bayswater plant in front of around 1,200 factory staff, managers, dealers and invited guests including two high-ranking executives from DAF’s European headquarters, an animated Michael Cahill made no secret of Kenworth’s ‘Australian Made’ attributes as a major factor in their liking for the brand.
He is, however, also quick to emphasise that DAF has become a prominent part of an increasingly diverse Cahill operation which has taken delivery of around 60 units at various times, from LF rigids to the XF flagship, but most notably, the versatile CF model.
“We were happy to put our hand up for the first Australianbuilt DAF,” Michael confirms.
As the best-selling model in the DAF range, it’s easy to understand why the CF85 is initially the only model to be assembled at Bayswater. Right now, local assembly of other models remains a work-in-progress according to Paccar insiders, but as a resolute Michael Cahill predicted at the handover, “… the floodgates will open for DAF in Australia now they’re locally built.
“Paccar’s commitment in this is obvious, vital and quite simply, amazing,” he asserted.
Away from the celebrations, it is a serious Andrew Hadjikakou who explains that confidence in the growth potential of DAF was one of several powerful motives for Paccar’s $37 million investment in the Bayswater plant. Obviously, powers-that-be at Paccar headquarters in Seattle share a similar confidence.
To achieve that growth, however, Bayswater needs more capacity. “Not just in production, but also in warehousing,” he comments. “Expansion will allow us to bring most of our production materials in-house rather than stored off-site.”
Asked about future plans, specifically the likelihood of assembling DAF’s XF105 flagship at Bayswater, he cautiously confirms that while the 6x4 CF85 will remain the only locally assembled model for the moment, the XF is certainly under consideration.
He agrees that local assembly also opens opportunities for a range of specification ‘adjustments’. Whether those ‘adjustments’ go as far as pushing the XF’s current power peak from 510hp to, say, 600hp with a Cummins X15 engine, remains to be seen. It was, however, a forthright Hadjikakou who said that while such a change is not out of the question, there are many practical issues (not least, electrics) that would first need to be overcome.
Further afield, DAF recently unveiled a 530hp Euro 6 version of the Paccar MX-13 engine at the Hanover truck show in Germany. It’s not yet known when it might be offered here in either DAF or the much anticipated and decidedly different T410 model, due towards the end of the first quarter next year. Smart money, however, would be on the higher rating’s local introduction in both brands within the next year or so.
While growth plans for DAF were a strong motivation for major expansion at Bayswater, Kenworth is at the core of Paccar profitability and make no mistake, advanced production processes for the market-leading brand are top of the agenda in the factory’s comprehensive development program.
High on the heap is the installation of advanced robotics to enhance production of the wider 2.1 metre cab on the T610, the upcoming T410 and T360 models, and sooner or later, the wider cab’s inclusion on the iconic T9.
According to Hadjikakou: “The final extent of robotics is still being determined but the changes and the efficiencies they provide will be extraordinary.”
Since its launch just two years ago, success of the T610 has been outstanding, now surpassing the T909 as Kenworth’s most popular conventional and running a very close second to the K200 cab-over as the top-selling model in the range.
“It is a great truck and the market obviously sees it that way,” Hadjikakou adds.
Even so, T610 hasn’t been without some teething issues: “But we were quick to get on top of those things,” he asserts, promptly adding that lessons learned with the 610 have been duly implemented in its inevitable siblings, the T410 and T360.
It’s early days for the two new models and at the time of this report, only two of the eight pre-production units destined for durability assessment and validation had been built.
Still, first details are now coming to light and apart from the widely applauded wider cab, the new models also sport redesigned lights and hoods, improved entry/exit to the cab, and critically, revised dimensions in a number of areas. Visually, the newcomers are easily identified by less glittering grille surrounds than the T610.
Additionally, says Paccar Australia director of product planning, Ross Cureton, both the T360 and T410 have a cab floor 75mm (3 inches) lower than the T610.
Yet, whereas the T410 retains a 112-inch (2,845mm) bumper to back-of-cab (BBC) dimension, Cureton explains that the cab on the T360 has been pushed forward to create a short 106inch (2,692mm) BBC compared to the 110-inch (2,794mm) of the existing T359 model.
Powered by the choice of a Cummins 6.7-litre ISB or 8.9-litre
Above: Cahill brothers, Dan (left) and Michael. Happy to put their hand up for the first DAF to roll off the Bayswater line
Above L to R: Paccar Australia managing director Andrew Hadjikakou addresses part of a 1,200-strong audience of staff and visitors at the handover of the first locally assembled DAF. For Paccar Australia, a historic moment; Michael Cahill firmly believes local assembly will be a major boost for DAF in Australia
Above: Snapped! First prototypes of the upcoming T410 and T360 stick their noses out of the Bayswater factory for the first time