Navistar to build heavy diesel engine

Plans for its trucks seen likely to affect suppliers Cummins and Caterpillar

February 18, 2005|By James P. Miller | James P. Miller,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Navistar International Corp., in a move that seems likely to pinch suppliers Cummins Inc. and Caterpillar Inc., said yesterday that it plans to begin producing a heavy diesel engine for its long-distance "Class 8" trucks.

Currently, the maker of medium and heavy trucks manufactures the engines for its medium-duty commercial vehicles, and it produces diesels for Ford Motor Co.'s pickup trucks.

Until now, however, Navistar has purchased the so-called "big-bore" heavy engines that power its Class 8 cross-country rigs from engine makers Cummins and, to a lesser extent, Caterpillar.

Yesterday, the company said it will begin offering a new line of International brand 11- to 13-liter diesel engines, to be used exclusively in Navistar's International Class 8 highway tractors and severe-service trucks.

"Our strategy for enhancing and growing the engine business involves extending our engine product line," said Jack Allen, president of the company's engine operation.

Navistar said it will begin putting the new heavy engines in its vehicles in the fall of 2007. The product will be designed to meet more-stringent federal clean-air requirements scheduled to take effect that year.

Navistar's announcement didn't come as a total surprise: Two months ago, the company disclosed that it had reached an agreement with Germany's MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG to collaborate on design, development and production of components and systems for commercial trucks, "including a range of diesel engines."

MAN, of Munich, makes trucks and diesel engines for sale in Europe, but doesn't compete with Navistar, which sells its products in North America and South America.

Roy Wiley, spokesman for Navistar, said details of the collaboration aren't being made public, but he emphasized that the company will manufacture the product.

In the United States, Navistar produces engines at plants in Indianapolis, Melrose Park, Ill., and Huntsville, Ala. Wiley said officials "haven't made a decision yet as to where the engine will be built."

The engine size that Navistar plans on building is toward the lighter end of the heavy-duty truck-engine spectrum, and the company said it will continue to offer customers International brand trucks built with Cummins and Caterpillar engines.

The truck industry, which entered a lengthy cyclical downturn in late 2000, has enjoyed a solid rebound over the past few quarters, with orders so brisk that Cummins and Cat have had trouble producing enough engines to keep up with truck makers' orders.

Wiley denied that difficulties with big-bore engine availability are behind the company's bid to begin making heavy diesels.

"We just wanted to have our own entry" in the heavy-engine segment, he said.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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