International's Keate upbeat on engines

International Truck and Engine Corp. truck group president Steve Keate said it will be easier to sell trucks with the new EPA-mandated engines once the myths surrounding the post-October engines are dispelled. Keate told Fleet Owner that the OEM's dealer network is communicating facts about the new engines to its customers as well as changes made to International vehicles to accommodate them. "We took advantage of the changes in the engine to improve the ride and handling of the vehicle and in the cooling systems that we offer, so we're out explaining to the customer the benefits to the product," Keate said. "By doing that and dispelling some of the myths surrounding the new engines, we're finding that customers are much more interested in buying these vehicles." The biggest myth, said Keate, is the reliability and durability of the new engines. He said that International has worked in close collaboration with its engine suppliers, Cummins Inc. and Caterpillar Inc. "They've done a tremendous amount of testing with the new engines and their technology is not new," he said about the use of exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) by Cummins and Cat's Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology (ACERT). Keate said International has stopped taking orders for trucks with the current engines. It will produce trucks with the old engines for those customers having already ordered them through October. "The engine companies are required to stop producing those engines at the end of September," Keate explained. "What we are doing is installing them in our vehicles, and those will be built out in the month of October. We're trying to balance the transition from the old product to the new product and make sure our inventory is used up in an efficient way." There are no stats to show which engine is preferred by International's customers. However, Keate said that historically, International has had a higher percent of customers purchasing trucks equipped with engines by Cummins."We need to respond to customer needs," Keate said. "We'll offer two brands and support those two brands whichever way they go." Cummins has its EGR engines available for sale. However, Caterpillar said its post-October engines won't be ready until April 2003. Keate said International is also offering up to $2,500 in incentives to buyers purchasing trucks with the post-October engines. Such incentives have already paid off for rival OEMs Kenworth Motor Co. and Peterbilt Truck Co., as evidenced by sales figures recently released by Ward's Communications. "Order receipts for the industry have come down significantly from where they were three months ago, when we were seeing a lot of the pre-buying," Keate said. "We're starting to see some pickup in post-October orders, but they're still relatively low."

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