In the world of trucks it seems that everything old is new again!
In a corner of Iveco’s heritage listed Dandenong plant, with a strong Autumn breeze flapping a loose piece of roofing and amongst the relics of a production facility that tracks its origins back to when International Harvester owned the facility and built its trucks and machines there, the Australian truck media gathered to hear the long anticipated announcement that Iveco would once again be selling the International brand in this country.
The irony certainly wasn’t lost on at least some of the gathered media.
Navistar hosted the truck press at the Brisbane Truck Show almost two years ago to announce it was returning the International brand to this country. Now after a long and it seems torturous gestation period the famous old nameplate is back with the ProStar range the first models to hit the roads.
Some may look at the ProStar and see more than a passing resemblance to the Caterpillar range of on highway trucks launched here in 2014. That would be quite an appropriate conclusion as they are virtually the same trucks except for the fact that the International is longer in the chassis and has a current Euro 5 Cummins power plant and not an outdated Euro 4 Caterpillar engine.
While some of the Navistar executives on hand shifted uneasily in their seats when asked about how many of those Cats were still in stock and how they’re presence in the market place might affect the not dissimilar International ProStars, they did stay on message and underlined that they were here to launch the new truck not to bury the old one.
Internationals were built in the heritage listed Dandenong facility from 1952 to 2001 and Iveco continued to distribute Inters through until the mid 2000s. Now they’re back and despite Navistar shopping the brand distribution rights around to a number of other distributors and truck companies the, rights settled back at the old ancestral home and it seems an easy fit.
Iveco Australia MD, Michael Jonson described the return as a “homecoming” to the place that gave birth to thousands of Internationals in the past.
“Welcome home, International, the brand’s DNA still runs deep today with the current Iveco ACCO range sharing its lineage with earlier ACCOs developed under the International brand,” he said.
ProStar will be the first model sold under the reborn International brand and will be offered as a day cab, extended cab with an ADR-compliant bunk, and as the flagship integrated full-size sleeper cab model.
While a choice of five wheelbases will be offered a key selling point will be the short ‘bumper to back of cab’ (BBC) configuration, making the ProStar models suitable for a variety of combinations,” said International’s manager of Engineering in Australia, Adrian Wright.
“The day cab will fit in front of virtually any Australian trailer set and will be well suited for truck and dog work, as a 34-pallet or 36-pallet B-double and also in B-triple and two trailer road train work,” said Wright.
Wright would not be drawn on how long it took to develop the ProStar for Australia with the local spec featuring a unique bumper for better clearance and length calculations and a number of other ‘Australianised-features’, however visiting Navistar Chief Engineer, Marco Anaya revealed it iunvoilkved around two years of development work led by Wright.
Navistar’s Vice President – Global Export, Federico Palomo and his director of sales, Dicky Commandeur were also at the launch along with director of marketing and strategy, Octavio Gonzalez.
Mr Palomo said the announcement was preceded by almost two years of preparation and negotiation to ensure that the relaunch of International into the Australian market ran smoothly.
“The return of International to Australia has been eagerly awaited especially given the high standing the brand enjoys here courtesy of earlier models and a very long and successful pedigree,” Mr Palomo said.
“All good things take time,“ Mr Palomo told Truck and Bus News.
“It has just taken a long time to get all the documents signed and approved and now we have it all in place we are very excite to start selling International in Australia again,” he added.
Iveco MD Jonson says that the Iveco dealers are extremely enthusiastic about the International return and that while it had planned an initial order of 100 ProStars units dealer interest has been so strong that it will order more trucks from Navistar.
Part of the Australianisation of the ProStar has included thicker high tensile steel 10 mm chassis rails and huck-bolted cross members along with high strength steel panels in the 2.1metre wide cabin, zinc coated on both sides then fully dipped in e-coat primer.
All ProStars will be powered by the latest E5 Cummins X15 SCR engine, producing 550hp (410 kW) and 1850 lb. ft. (2,508 Nm) of torque and will be available with either an Eaton 18-speed manual, which features an effort-reducing ‘air over hydraulic’ clutch, or an Eaton ‘UltraShift Plus’ 18-speed automated manual (AMT).
Meritor axles and a Dana SPL driveshaft along with a power divider lock and cross locks on both rear drive axles aids traction and adds to the overall package.
ProStar has ABS brakes with Automatic Traction Control and trucks specified with the UltraShift Plus transmission are also equipped with Hill Start Aid but there is no ESP available at this time.
With Iveco’s strong dealer network of around 29 taking set to sell International, many of whom having long term ties to the Inter brand as a result of the historic lineage, there is should be no reason why the ProStar won’t succeed. The only real challenge will be price and how committed both organisations are to marketing International in this country.
The Navistar team would not be drawn on exactly how many trucks they hope to sell in Australia over the next year, the lessons and promises from the Cat launch no doubt still weighing heavily on the Navistar people. However in an aside following the official media launch activities it was intimated to Truck and Bus News that perhaps around 500 ProStars would be moved Down Under between now and the end of 2018.
It is a reasonable number but only time will tell if Iveco and Navistar will be able to meet that ‘unofficial’ expectation.