Now that Caterpillar has started shipping its first-ever work truck, the CT660, the Peoria, Ill.-based manufacturer says it plans to unseat traditional vocational truck manufacturers with loyal followings, such as Kenworth and Mack.
So far, Cat's order book for October is filled, but supplier constraints, sluggish construction activity and a weakening truck market are threatening to slow the momentum.
"I'm pleased but not satisfied," admits George Taylor, director of Caterpillar's on-highway truck group, which hosted a press conference on Sept. 27 at Cat's demonstration center in Edwards, Ill. "The key is getting that truck out, getting it visible."
Caterpillar has had big plans for the CT660, introduced last March at the Conexpo exhibition in Las Vegas and began shipping in late September. The truck, which includes such standard features as chrome brightwork and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, is expected to be priced competitively with other high-end construction trucks.
"I would call it 'industrial premium,' says Gary Blood, product manager. "This is really a no-excuses vocational truck." Though Cat isn't talking prices, industry sources tell us it will cost between $125,000 and $135,000. That's about 5% more than a comparably equipped Mack and competitive with Kenworth or Peterbilt.
After months of build-up, the excitement at Conexpo was intense. Some 40,000 people—about one-third of the show's total attendance—came to see the CT660 on display in Cat's booth. What's more, the company collected 1,600 sales leads at the show, employees say.
"We expect to be in the next five years a number-one or number-two player," Taylor says.
Heavy-duty work trucks, which make up about one-fifth of the Class 8 segment, are dominated by Mack, Kenworth and Peterbilt. While Mack has more than 34% of that share, Paccar Inc. is the largest player in the space with its Kenworth and Peterbilt brands, owning more than 46% of the market. Collectively, these three brands make up about 80% of the vocational trucks on the road, Cat estimates.
Under the hood, the CT660 comes with either an 11-liter engine with up to 390 hp and 1,450 lb-ft of torque or 13-liter diesel engine offering up to 475 hp and 1,700 lb-ft of torque. For the heaviest hauls, a 15-liter engine that cranks out up to 550 hp and 1,850 lb-ft of torque will be available early next year.
The truck comes standard with Caterpillar's own six-speed automatic transmission—the same in Cat's articulating dump trucks and some military vehicles—though users can specify a number of Eaton gearboxes. The set-forward-axle truck can be had with multiple bumper-to-cab lengths, axles and fuel tanks. Cat also has changed out some of the steering components to give the truck a segment-leading turning radius, it says. A set-back axle truck will be available in 2013.