BELLEVUE, WASH -- Kenworth's K270 and K370 cabover medium-duty trucks, introduced about 18 months ago, are making far more inroads into the market than the company's previous forays into this segment, say company officials.
Doug Powell, medium-duty marketing manager, told a group of trucking journalists Thursday that a previous attempt at a midrange cabover in approximately the 2006/2007 time frame was not nearly as successful. While he didn't have exact figures, Powell said, "We probably sold more of the new one in the first three months than we did of the last one in two or three years."
First announced in the fall of 2011 but not officially rolled out until the spring of 2012, the Kenworth K270 Class 6 and Kenworth K370 Class 7 cabovers are targeted at urban delivery companies that require a highly maneuverable truck with 18- to 26-foot van body size, stake bed, or roll-on/roll-off bed. Customers include pickup and delivery, lease/rental, towing/recovery, landscaping, furniture, and food processing and distribution.
Although the cab is from Europe, the K-series trucks are built on a North American chassis very similar to Kenworth's conventional midrange products, the T270 and T370.
Since their launch, Powell noted that a number of options have been added to meet customer needs, including a 22.5-inch tire and wheel package and expanded wheelbase choices, air ride suspensions, and a second fuel tank option.
"It came out in March/April of 2012 and has slowly gained momentum and popularity as we've gotten our dealers engaged and trained on the benefits," Powell said, such as ride, fit and finish, and visibility. "Overall length is becoming a bigger issue in some cities and if you can get 4 feet more on the box vs. a conventional, it makes a ton of sense, plus it's going to get around easier."
He noted that the cabovers must overcome stigma left over from decades ago, including perceptions that cabovers offer a rougher, more noisier ride than conventionals. Getting dealers and buyers behind the wheel is a key strategy.
Taking both the K-series cabovers and the T-series conventionals around a test track and on streets and highways near the Paccar Technical Center in Mt. Vernon, Wash., I and other reporters were impressed with the quiet, comfortable ride.
Powell said these trucks are better suited to the North American market than the company's previous attempts. In addition to a better product, he said, the company is focusing on dealer education.
"We're making more effort internally to sell this truck and push it into markets where it should be pushed.
"We're really quizzing our dealers to interview the customer to really see what's best for their application," he said. "In a lot of cases the K370 will work better than the T370."
Powell noted that Kenworth has what he called a "two-cab strategy for its medium-duty sales. Customers can opt for the tried-and-true, aluminum huck-bolted cab on the conventional models, or the more spacious, 2.1-meter-wide cab in the cabovers that accommodates three people.
Another difference, he said, is the cabover models come loaded with many standard features and comforts, with fewer options than the conventionals.
Looking to the Kenworth's future medium-duty plans, Powell said there are updates coming to the electric hybrid, with nearly three times the battery capacity for better fuel economy. Hybrid sales have plateaued, he said, with these trucks being most popular in areas such as California where there are government incentives to help defray the higher up-front cost.
Kenworth also is working on more air disc brake coverage for its medium-duty trucks and eventually will offer them across the entire medium-duty line.