What happens when a medium-duty truck company wants to expand its sales? Two choices: you can make more models in segments you already have product, or you can seek out new segments with new products. Automotive history tells us the latter typically works better than the former, but International Navistar, long a household name in work-duty truck making, seems to be putting a new twist on this tried-and-true idea. It seems International will be adding a big-rig to its lineup that has the looks of one of the old mid-30s light-duty International pickup trucks (called D-Series) that were popular in the U.S. for hauling, toting, and carrying just about every known product sold in the U.S. The D-Series were functional and sturdy, with a wide toothy grille that vaguely resembled a streamlined locomotive. Squint a little and make it about twice the size of the original truck, and you begin to see how the first LoneStar design team got their inspiration. The LoneStar creates a new segment in the commercial truck market for International, and they're calling this new design look "Advanced Classic"--a blend of classic and modern aerodynamic shapes. But the outside isn't the only important aspect of this truck.
Because any truck drivers spend nearly 300 days on the road per year, driving, sleeping, eating and operating their business from the truck, interior design is extremely important. Understanding that, International collected input from hundreds of truck drivers and worked with the Carnegie Mellon School of Fine Arts to come up with one of the most efficient and comfortable interiors in the commercial trucking segment (see sidebar). Powertrain options won't be as innovative but will offer variety. International expects most buyers will want to purchase a 15.0-liter engine so both Cat C15 (525 hp) and Cummins ISX motors are available. In addition, if there's demand for a smaller 13.0-liter engine, Navistar's MaxxForce 13 will be an option as well. All these engines will be new-regulation EPA-compliant to produce near-zero emissions and offer up to a 15% fuel improvement over the previous models. That can translate into $10,000 per year for some of the long-hauler truckers.
If ever there was big-rig that wanted to take many of the creature comforts of the medium-duty or fullsize SUV vehicles and deliver that same level of convenience and luxury, this would be the rig. Just some of the details include a sophisticated roll stability program, traction control, standard ABS, a leather steering wheel, and Bluetooth hands-free adaptability. You can even get a plasma screen DVD player setup in the high-rise sleeper unit, along with a Monsoon stereo system with eleven speakers, a separate amp, and subwoofer. Even the dash layout looks like a cross between a Cadillac and Kodiak.
Expect the LoneStar to go on sale by May 2008, with deliveries being made by fall.
The truck's interior is designed with many "creature features" typically found in RVs. Some of the highlights include wood flooring in the sleeper cab, a sofa-bed design to the bed, complete with black pillows, swivel chairs, airline-type cabinets, a separate work area with plug-ins for a laptop, and a pull-down Murphy-bed with a 42-inch-wide mattress. Other niceties include a microwave and mini refrigerator. Two interior trim option packages (Limited and Suite) will be available, with two trim options (Rosewood and Titanium); Interior color options include gray, blue, brick. The Suite model includes options like a wood floor, leather seats, and entertainment system.
Partnerships and Marriages
As we reported in Max Payload last issue, International recently entered into a deal with General Motors that will have International purchasing the Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC Topkick, meaning they will own the dealerships and trucks. However, GM will retain the location of the assembly plant, but International will be allowed produce and/or redesign the Kodiak and Topkick wherever they see fit after five years. What this means for the International down the line isn't clear, but with a stronger presence in the medium-duty truck market, it wouldn't surprise us if we saw a 1-ton or 1.5-ton International dually make its way into the marketplace in the next five years. Could this mean the D-Series is ready to make a comeback?