After five years of development Freightliner’s new Coronado 114 is here with a Detroit Diesel DD15 engine.
After five years of development Freightliner’s new Coronado 114 is here with a Detroit Diesel DD15 engine.

Can-do Coronado

FREIGHTLINER'S boss in Australia Gary Wheatley has been looking closely at the heavy-duty market with some frustration for the past few years.

Not that Daimler's prime US brand is devoid of competitive products though.

He pointed out that over 36% of the heavy-duty sector are all sold with more than 530hp, which fits in perfectly with Freightliner's favoured power plant, the popular DD15 at 560hp.

But nestled in among the 12,000 or so annual truck sales that the market is heading for in the lead up to 2015 is the conventional, medium bonnet, axle forward sector that Daimler Trucks dropped out of when the Sterling brand was given the heave-ho.

It represents 12% of the heavy-duty overall volume, and Freightliner wants some of that back.

After five years of development, arguments with the US factory and engineering to suit local conditions, the team has agreed on the truck that they think can give them 300 sales a year.

Externally, the Coronado 114 could be seen as merely a shortened bonnet on the existing Coronado.

But the truth is its taken five years in planning and development and around 35,000 engineering hours to get the solution right.

At its core, the 114 will have the Detroit Diesel DD15 engine as the only engine available.

No Cummins option on this baby, and the local guys are confident that won't slow sales down at all.

Existing Coronado orders are already 85% in favour of the DD15.

But the shorter engine/cab package has required some tight packaging of components and the cost of making those changes for two engines simply wasn't justifiable.

The medium length bonnet and set forward axle has required the radiator area to be reduced from the Coronado 120's gigantic 1900 square inch monster.

It's down to "just" 1700, but Detroit Diesel people claim on average it will still have up to 15% spare capacity for Australian conditions.

Most importantly, a customer can now buy a Coronado that will comfortably meet the requirements for both a 45' trailer or a 26-metre B-double, even with one of the biggest sleepers on the market behind the driver, and a suitably heavy-duty bull-bar hanging off the front.

Greg Nightingale is the project engineer in charge of Freightliner's right hand drive stuff - Australia, South Africa in particular.

"We spent well over US $2m just on the production line tooling for the changes on this Coronado," he said.

"There's been 35,000 engineering hours on the truck too."

Even a rudimentary calculation on those hours means a development cost alone that's heading towards US$10m, peanuts to a big corporation, but a lot of dosh for a very limited volume in overall Freightliner terms.

After a quiet word on the business case for developing the 114 version with Greg Robinson, head of international sales I got the clear impression that the numbers were tight enough to make the forecast sales target of 300 units a year a budget essential rather than a simple sales objective.

For that reason alone, I think we'll be seeing some aggressive marketing of the "short" Coronado, even at the expense of some long bonnet prospects.

But to be fair, the 114 brings a 110-tonne GCM to a market that will use the truck for a wide-range of tasks.

The original version had the cab raised 50mm for Australia. This latest version is raised even further, another 50mm, plus the cab is 20cm further forward.

With the solid reputation that Coronado has already established, it's going to be vital that the new unit doesn't arrive in fleets with any wrinkles that will sour the experience.

For that reason, the test truck is already on its way here, and will be placed with an Australian operator for 24/7 operations before the retail release early in 2013.

Apparently, this test unit will also have some prototype bits that the engineers have sneaked on it for evaluation.

They just love Australia as a test site.

If Freightliner can get the right fuel tanks on board, this new Coronado is going to be a very popular long distance truck of choice for many independents.

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