Cat ready to pounce
"STARTING a truck company is like birthing an elephant," said Bill Fulton, Cat Trucks Australia managing director, at a media briefing late last year in Sydney where he unveiled Cat's 13-litre ADR 80/03 emissions solution.
He was talking about the long gestation period as he drew parallels with the inception of the brand and its first year in Australia.
It is no secret it was a choice of hitting the ground running with a limited model line-up and antiquated engine offering or wait two years and come to the market with an ADR 80/03 product.
However, antiquated is a subjective word, and in this line of work it really equates to proven product.
The reason behind the brand was to build a product around an engine, since truck manufacturers opted out of buying the popular Caterpillar on-highway engine in favour of developing engines in-house. This meant it was not feasible for the group to keep making on-highway engines.
Cat Trucks initially produced about 540 vehicles in Australia as a joint venture between Navistar and Caterpillar, with engines with the ADR 80/02 emissions specifications before the December 2010 cut-off date.
It's a move that begged questioning - bringing in old technology for a new product and stockpiling it.
With VFACTS figures pointing to 156 of the vehicles sold and nearly 20% of that total sold in December alone, the momentum may be shifting for Cat Trucks Australia.
Mr Fulton said creating a truck business is a "long-term plan" and the momentum is swinging towards greater sales.
"We continue to see momentum of sales heading up, and we'll be up on where we thought we would be," he said.
With a slow uptake of ADR 80/03 vehicles in 2011 with many dealers and brands offloading ADR 80/02 stock with great deals, in a flat market, Cat Trucks may have created its own niche market with its stockpile of new ADR 80/02 vehicles available for sale if market conditions remain the same this year.
The two model Cats include the CT610 and CT 630. The CT610 powered by the 470-hp Cat C13 engine has a bumper to back-of-cab (BBC) measurement of 2.72 metres, and is targeted to 19-metre applications with a capacity of up to 57 tonnes.
The CT630 powered by the 550-hp Cat C15 engine has a BBC measurement of 3.10 metres, and is suitable for B-double on-highway road train applications and is available in both 72-tonne and 90-tonne options.
However this year signals the move to ADR 80/03 engines for both models.
The group has its 15-litre and 13-litre options nutted out and has kept up its end of the bargain by offering the yellow engine that so many missed.
Cat Trucks last year announced its ACERT C15 engine now meets ADR 80-03 emissions standards for use in Australia with only minimal work having to be done to it.
However the 13-litre option comes straight from the States and has been engineered down to our standards rather than up.
The Cat CT13 is currently used in Cat's North American line-up of vocational trucks, including the Cat CT660.
The cylinder block is made of compacted graphite iron, making it both stronger and lighter than engines made from gray iron. In comparison, CGI iron is 40% stiffer and offers 75% higher tensile strength and 200% greater fatigue resistance.
The CT13 also features a dry cylinder deck, which prevents coolant and oil from mixing via head gasket leak paths. It's another step in the evolution of Cat Trucks Australia.