International’s eye on Class 8

The new head of International Truck and Engine Corp.’s Class 8 operations today said a key goal of the OEM is “revitalizing our Class 8 business.”

Speaking during a scheduled teleconference with trucking media, Tom Baughman, vp & gm—heavy vehicle center, said the company’s commitment to the heavy-duty market is evident at all levels, from new management to truck models, to dealer service excellence.

“The International team is very focused on what we need to achieve,” said Baughman. “One of those accomplishments includes our success with the J.D. Power awards,” he said, pointing out that in the latest round, International scored highest in dealer satisfaction.

“Class 8 is coming back really strong,” Baughman said. “We think we’ll get a 3% increase in heavy-vehicle market share.” He also noted the OEM is now “very competitive” in the daycab tractor market.

Baughman said “the right elements” are in place for further product introductions. First up will be a new “classic” model, the American Eagle, which is due to start production in November.

Looking toward ’07, Baughman hinted that the OEM’s new linehaul tractor model is on track, stating it has received the needed financial commitment from the company. He said the new model will be an “industry changing” vehicle that will “be about driver environment, uptime and fuel economy.” Asked about the potential for pre-buying by fleets in the face of the 2007 EPA engine mandate, Baughman said “any time the industry comes up against such change we see some level of pre-buying.”

Baughman pointed out, though, that this particular change will come only three years before a more major one-- the 2010 engine requirements. Therefore, he suggested fleets with three-to-four-year buying cycles might well opt to go ahead with ’07 purchasing plans if so scheduled.

“We expect to see some softening [due to pre-buying] in ’07 [truck sales],” Baughman stated. “But ’07 will be relatively healthy [with truck sales] along the magnitude of what’s forecast for 2004.”

Baughman noted that the OEM’s quality improvements were also responsible for a 20% decrease in heavy-duty warranty costs this year.

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