In a bid to recapture market share lost in recent years, Navistar International Corp. launched its new line of International LT over-the-road trucks Friday at an industry conference in Las Vegas.
The Lisle, Ill., truck manufacturer said the new vehicle, which it expects to become its flagship, will offer a series of improvements over its existing heavy-duty line, including better fuel economy and standard advanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control and collision alert with automatic braking to reduce rear-end crashes.
Navistar’s International Truck Division unveiled the truck Friday afternoon, just before the start of the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition. The truck maker is introducing the International LT as it struggles to regain market share lost over reliability issues and a wrong bet on diesel emissions technology.
“Navistar has experienced 10 years’ worth of change in just the last couple of years,” Troy Clarke, Navistar's chief executive, said at the launch event. “We stepped back, fixed what needed to be fixed. We are now positioned to take our business to the next level.”
Navistar has about 11 percent of the market for the heaviest Class 8 trucks, which are used for shipping goods nationwide, according to the American Truck Dealers division of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Daimler, which owns the Freightliner and Western Star brands, is the industry leader at about 43 percent. Paccar’s Peterbilt and Kenworth brands have about 27 percent, and Volvo, which also owns Mack, has about 19 percent.
In a recent interview with Trucks.com, Clarke said, “The elephant in the room for us is we disappointed a lot of customers between 2010 and 2014.”
“This industry isn’t that large – there are 300 customers that buy 80 percent of the trucks in the industry. At some point in the past we violated their trust and we have to re-earn that,” Clarke said. “The rate at which we can re-earn that is of great importance to us.”
The International LT, which will go into production in November, faces stiff competition from rival brands. Last month, Daimler Trucks unveiled the latest model of its Freightliner Cascadia semi-truck, the first full redesign of the trucking industry workhorse since its introduction in 2007. Major trucking firms, including Phoenix-based Swift Transportation Co. and Thomasville, N.C.-based Old Dominion Freight Line, have already indicated they plan to buy thousands of the new Cascadia, which goes into production early next year.
Navistar’s last introduction of a large, over-the-road truck was its ProStar in 2007.
Navistar hopes to gain on its rivals by offering a big rig that is driver friendly, features improved aerodynamics and a 7 percent fuel-efficiency gain over its 2017 ProStar.
“This is a way for International to reboot their Class 8 highway tractors,” said Chris Visser, senior analyst at ATA/NADA Official Commercial Truck Guide.
“And it helps that Navistar is coming out with a brand new truck, with a name that is not ProStar,” Visser told Trucks.com. “That’s kind of the way to reset the whole equation, especially since they are now using the same engine (technology) as everybody else.”
The new truck is powered by the new 2017 Cummins X15 engine. It has 500 horsepower in the efficiency series and up to 565 horsepower in the performance series. This spring, the truck will also be available with the new 2017 Navistar N13 engine, which has 475 horsepower.
With the new truck, Navistar will join Daimler and Volvo in offering a predictive cruise control system that “looks” ahead of the truck, recognizes the terrain and continuously calculates the most efficient speed and gear for optimal fuel economy. It uses pre-installed GPS maps and commercial route data to make adjustments to cruising speed.
Navistar also has promised to improve reliability.
“We pored over reliability data to evaluate nearly every single system on our on-highway platform, in order to look for ways to get better,” said Denny Mooney, Navistar senior vice president in charge of product development. “In some cases, we completely redesigned the entire system to reach our goals.”
Based on input from hundreds of drivers, Navistar will pack the new truck’s cab with more comforts, including additional elbow, hip and leg room. And the vehicle will be quieter because the cab’s new aerodynamic design will decrease wind noise.
The truck maker said the LT Series could help companies attract and retain drivers as turnover is a major issue in the trucking industry.
“The International LT Series was designed hand-in-hand with our customers and drivers,” said David Majors, vice president of engineering for Navistar. “By putting the driver at the center of everything we do, we're building trucks that drivers want to drive.”
The redesigned interior features 15 customizable digital gauges that are easily accessible by drivers. Based on driver feedback, the air horn has been relocated to its traditional position over the driver door.
The new trucks will also feature several safety improvements, including LED headlamps to improve night vision, a column-mounted gear-shifter and a one-piece side window “that affords the driver a clearer line of sight.”
The 2017 LT Series offers five cab configurations, including day cab and differing heights in the sleeper berths.
In addition to the new semi-truck, Navistar is creeping its way back into the heavy-duty work-truck business with its line of HX series vehicles launched earlier this year – a segment it left about five years ago. The company will release a new or rebuilt product every quarter through 2018.
It also is getting new investment and technical help. Earlier this month, Volkswagen’s truck division said it would invest $256 million in Navistar at $15.76 per share and appoint two directors to Navistar’s board. The deal gives Volkswagen a 16.6 percent stake in Navistar. The companies will share technology, components and research.
“There’s a lot of back-end benefits from having a much larger economy of scale when it comes to acquiring parts and machinery and things of that nature,” Visser told Trucks.com. “Volkswagen has that global reach so they have a larger supplier network and there will be some cost-savings. That’s the main benefit right now. Of course, the infusion of cash will help International’s balance sheet. Volkswagen’s always wanted to gain their own product line.”
Navistar is still dealing with the outfall of its previous technological failure.
On Wednesday, Navistar agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by shareholders against the truck maker. According to court documents, shareholders allege the company “issued materially false and misleading statements concerning the company’s financial condition and future business prospects.”
In an effort to differentiate itself from its competitors to develop an Environmental Protection Agency-compliant engine by 2010, Navistar invested in a new engine technology called exhaust gas recirculation, or EGR, which was supposed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by burning off exhaust pollutants within the engine.
Other truck makers went with a more effective selective catalytic reduction technology, which treated the engine exhaust with a urea-based chemical to reduce NOx emissions.
The lawsuit claims that Navistar failed to get the EGR engine ready to meet EPA standards. The truck maker eventually adopted the SCR technology in 2012 after spending $700 million on developing its EGR engine, according to the legal filing.