Western Star, for many years a low-volume and largely obscure builder of premium severe-service trucks and over-the-road tractors, is aiming for more attention and market share in the work truck industry.
Members of the National Truck Equipment Association check out a rugged Western Star 4900-109 displayed at the 2010 Product Conference. It was the builder’s first appearance at an NTEA meeting. (Photo by Tom Berg)
Members of the National Truck Equipment Association check out a rugged Western Star 4900-109 displayed at the 2010 Product Conference. It was the builder’s first appearance at an NTEA meeting. (Photo by Tom Berg)


This week, for the first time ever, Western Star presented its vehicle line to attendees of the National Truck Equipment Association's Product Conference in Dearborn, Mich. This members-only event gives attendees a sneak preview of the newest trucks and chassis product offerings from leading chassis manufacturers.

NTEA, which calls itself "the association for the work truck industry," represents nearly 1,600 companies that manufacture, distribute, install, buy, sell and repair commercial trucks, truck bodies, truck equipment, trailers and accessories.

The NTEA meeting followed a series of sales and training meetings with its dealers to help them address this market, said John Tomlinson, a 19-year veteran of the company who just completed writing the Western Star Body Builders Book.

"This is our first time at NTEA," Western Star's Dan Silberman told the audience, made up mostly of body builders and upfitters. "So this is an introduction to Western Star." He then described its heavy- and extra-heavy duty models, which have premium features and are built for 30-year service lives, making them ideal for customers seeking long-term value in a work truck.

They displayed a chassis that has been an ideal platform for cranes, oil field flats, dumps and other specialty bodies, an on-/off-road 4900 with a medium-length 109-inch bumper-to-back-of-cab measurement. Its frame had a partial insert - a minor example of extensive customization that engineers and assemblers can achieve, the representatives said.

The 4900 is also available in longer BBC versions, and the 6900XD is a larger, heavier model built for off-road work. Cabs are built of double-wall galvanealed steel that's stronger and more corrosion-resistant than galvanized steel, Silberman explained. All Western Stars are offered with Detroit Diesel engines and some with the Cummins ISX.

A Daimler-owned manufacturer and sister to Freightliner, Western Star originated in 1970 in Kelowna, British Columbia. It was bought by Freightliner 30 years later and moved to Portland early this decade.

In vocational models, Western Star is at the highest tier in Daimler Trucks North America's offerings, followed by Freightliner's Coronado SD, M2-112 and M2-106. Capabilities, features and pricing are also in that descending order.

"When some of our Freightliner dealers took on the franchise, they put up the sign and then didn't do much else," Tomlinson told Truckinginfo. "So we just completed a round of training with them so they understand the truck" and can do a better job of selling it. "The next level is bringing it to these guys" -- the NTEA-member upfitters, who sometimes recommended chassis to their customers for use with their specialty bodies.

"We want to put ourselves out there" in front of the trucking public, he said. "And ultimately we want more market share."


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