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Return of the prodigal son

Big Rigs

"BACK home again" was the catch cry of the recent ProStar International launch, an almost conclusion to the corporate narrative and return of the local label

Its been a two-year-long journey since the venture was officially announced at the Brisbane truck show in 2015, with dealers and retail details still set to be fine-tuned in the coming months.

Launched at the Iveco plant in Dandenong, the unveiling of the brand's return was a grass-roots reintroduction by International, playing on the history of the badge.

The International Harvester after all, was produced in Australia just under half a century ago.

 

In spite of a series of false starts, Iveco says this time the ProStar is going to market.
In spite of a series of false starts, Iveco says this time the ProStar is going to market. Kirstin Payne

The nostalgic theme, "together on the road", International painted pictures of both rusty sunsets, rugged tracks, playing on the machines reliability and making a pointed attempt not to show any north American footage of the vehicle.

The production opted instead for B- roll of the ProStar's South American counterpart, to showcase the tougher side of the long awaited Navistar child.

 

International ProStar Launch
International ProStar Launch Kirstin Payne

Navistar vice-president for Global export Federico Palomo, who spoke on the company's history, said the first Australian International was made at the Dandenong site.

"Iveco and International have had a very, very deep and long history together here in this market place," Mr Palomo said.

"ProStar is a star and we are back where we belong.

"I am very optimistic, seeing a bright future for the global economy and therefore truck sales," he said.

International ProStar Launch
International ProStar Launch Kirstin Payne

Iveco Australia Managing Director, Michael Jonson said dealers were pleased to add the International conventional 15 litre to their product range.

"We had a very good year in 2016, we even see with this new product and this new brand it will get even better for us in the market in 2017," he said.

Yet the reported initial orders of 100 units tell a story of prudence rather than unbridled confidence, particularly when a number of the truck orders are expected to go directly to International's sister company, Case IH.

"A month ago we had the Case IH dealer convention and I mentioned to them we are bringing the International trucks back into the market and that I thought it would be just wonderful if all the Case IH dealers had international trucks to deliver their international harvesters," Iveco Australia's parent company, CNH Industrial executive managing director for Australia and New Zealand Ray Osgood said.

"They triggered off on this idea as well, and hopefully we will be moving a few through our own sister network, so I am delighted about that."

Mr Osgood was equally as confident of the product and pleased with the final outcome.

"Welcome back to the future, I think they are going to sell like hotcakes," Mr Osgood said.

"It's bit like a family member that has gone out on their own and now come back again," he said.

So what do we now know about the the prodigal son of the Iveco family?

Pulling back the black satin marketing executives introduced four distinct models for the International brand.

Frills free, simple and refined with engineering that tackled the feat of fitting the 15L Cummins engine into a right hand drive model.

 

Engineer Adrian Wright has a long history of the development of the Australian ProStar.
Engineer Adrian Wright has a long history of the development of the Australian ProStar. Kirstin Payne

"This gets back to International heritage, its a practical truck and a tool for business," International engineering manager, Adrian Wright said.

"All the elements have been fine tuned to a point where it feels natural, so you don't have to work it, it just sits on the road and does what you ask it to do," he said.

 

Utilitarian but comfortable with great visibility.
Utilitarian but comfortable with great visibility. Kirstin Payne

The ProStar is equipped with a Cummins x15 rated at 550 horsepower with 2500Nm of torque.

The Cummins engine comes with an ADEPT system harnessing the electronic capabilities of the engine and transmission to make powertrain control decisions in real time.

All models come with Eaton 18 speed transmission with a choice of manual or the UltraShift automated version.

Steering is a Shepparton 100 box, and Hendrickson Primaxx rear suspension with dual circuit air brakes, drum brakes, ABS and automatic traction control.

One of the Australian specific designs includes a range of bull bars, however at this stage there is no stainless steel option for the grill.

The range offers a choice of two day cabs, one as a prime mover (wheel base 4.3 metres)and a tipper and dog option with a longer wheel base (5.4 metres).

 

The sharp edge of the International ProStar range is aimed at the bulk short BBC market.
The sharp edge of the International ProStar range is aimed at the bulk short BBC market. Kirstin Payne

The short BBC (bumper to back of cab) of the day cabs is posed as a selling point.

A hybrid cab for the new ProStar looks to capitalise on providing a narrow bunk for short and regional haul operation where BBC can be reserved while offering an approved sleeper.

The IVECO marketing team sees this narrow bunk version as supplying an under-supplied, niche market.

This new cab is 660mm longer than the standard day cab, the bunk is ADR compliant.

The Navistar executives were shy about answering the question "will the Lonestar be available in Australia"?

"Watch this space," Frederico Polomo said, "there is more to come."