PHOENIX - Freightliner Trucks officially introduced the Business Class M2, the next generation of its medium-duty truck line. Like the current version, it will span Classes 5 through 8 and will eventually be offered in 100-, 106- and 112-in. BBC models. Representing a $250 million investment, the all-new design offers significant improvements in productivity and operational efficiency compared to the original Business Class, according to Rainer Schmueckle, president & CEO of Freightliner LLC, the North American parent of Freightliner Trucks, Sterling Truck and Western Star Trucks.Starting in June the company’s Mt. Holly, NC, plant will begin limited production of the 106-in. BBC M2 on new highly automated assembly lines. Extended and crew cabs will be available in late 2002, with 100- and 112-in. BBC models joining the lineup in 2003. The company also promises it will eventually offer a wide variety of configurations to fit a broad range of medium- and heavy-duty truck applications. Current Business Class models will be phased out gradually as corresponding M2 versions become commercially available, according to Mark Lampert, senior vp, sales and marketing. Design highlights for the new truck include an aluminum cab with a 2,500-sq. in. windshield and deeply sloped hood for excellent visibility, according to Michel von Mayenburg, senior vp, engineering and technology. Improved maneuverability is provided by wheel cuts as sharp as 55 degrees, delivering a turning radius of less than 57 ft. with a 20-ft. van body. The cab interior is roomier than the previous model and features an entirely new blend-air HVAC system with electronic controls. Other features for the M2 include new spring suspensions that provide improved ride while lowering maintenance requirements, a multiplexed wiring system with advanced control and diagnostic functions, and both high and low cab versions designed for easy driver entry and improved crash protection. The Mercedes-Benz MBE900 4- and 6-cyl. diesel will be the standard engine for the M2, offering ratings ranging from 170 to 280 hp. Caterpillar’s 3126 will also be initially available in rating from 175 to 300 hp. Transmission choices will include an Allison automatic as standard as well as optional Eaton manuals and automated mechanicals, and the Mercedes-Benz MBT synchronized 6-spd. Although the Business Class M2 will be sold only as a Freightliner truck, many of its advanced chassis components will eventually migrate to sister division Sterling’s Actera, as well as the company’s specialty bus and RV chassis, according to von Mayenburg.