LAS VEGAS -- A mock police chase lent humor to Navistar’s unveiling Monday of its new International HX series of vocational trucks, as sirens, flashing red-and-blue lights, clouds of dust, and fire and smoke livened up a construction site in Las Vegas, in conjunction with the World of Concrete trade show.
The object of the Hollywood-style pursuit was an HX620 dump truck supposedly stolen from outside a downtown casino. “Robbers” dressed as Elvis impersonators used the truck as a getaway car, racing down I-15 – the chase photographed from above, like an O.J. event on a Los Angeles freeway – then onto a large gravelly lot on Sin City’s near west side.
Play-acting police cornered the truck in front of bleachers filled with laughing dealers, customers and trade-press reporters. The cops collared the crooks and stashed them in patrol cars, and the drama wrapped up.
It was funny, but the HX represents serious business for Navistar.
“2016 will be International’s year,” declared Bill Kozek, president of Navistar Truck and Parts, as he delivered a normal presentation. The HX trucks and tractors come in four models, and will be part of the company’s climb back from its product and sales woes. He reiterated Navistar’s current theme of “uptime,” facilitated by production of high-quality trucks and reinvigorated maintenance services.
The HX is a premium vocational model, something International Truck and its dealers haven’t had for several years because they lacked a big-bore diesel that the segment requires, executives have said. The big engine disappeared when previous management dropped Cummins power and went exclusively with the ill-fated MaxxForce engine series, which also caused Navistar to lose much of the vocational business that it once dominated.
The latest PayStar, on which the HX is based, came only with a 12.4-liter MaxxForce engine (now updated to the N13 that the company says is more reliable).
But 15-liter power is needed to fully compete in the premium vocational market, company executives and dealers have said. In addition, the PayStar was available only with a setback steer axle.
That’s all changed with the HX series. It’s available with the Cummins ISX15 as well as the Navistar N13, both using Cummins-supplied exhaust-aftertreatment equipment. And an available set-forward steer axle makes the HX usable in certain applications in bridge-formula states that reward longer wheelbases with higher legal gross vehicle weights.
HX trucks have Navistar’s Diamond Logic multiplex wiring system, which PayStars never had, said a dealer sales representative in the audience. This will speed hooking up and controlling specialty bodies such as mixer drums. And Kozek said the HX cab’s rear is suspended on twin air bags designed to filter out shocks commonly encountered while running over rough terrain and broken pavement.
Lines of guests waited to drive a few HX models at the event; that limited this reporter to a very brief spin around the dirt lot with an HX615 mixer truck. That loop suggested that the new model is comfortable and smooth riding, but a much longer experience will be needed to fully gauge the truck’s driver-oriented attributes.
While the N13 diesel, aluminum cab and some frame components carry over from the PayStar, the HX is a bona fide new model by virtue of a boldly styled three-piece plastic-composite Metton hood and grille, and a redesigned cab interior. Some features inside the cab are taken from the Cat Truck, which Navistar is building for Caterpillar through the end of this year. Most noticeable is a single large combination speedometer and tachometer that was exclusive to the Cat starting in 2011.
That’s part of the “shared intellectual property” that Navistar gained from the Cat Truck project, executives said, so the interior design is fair game for their new HX. As previously announced, Caterpillar this year will take over assembly of Cat Trucks and Navistar will phase them out. In the meantime, the two products will be very similar, but HXs will cost less than comparably equipped Cats, which for now will lack 15-liter power, said dealer people who attended the event.
The HX series has gone into production at Navistar’s plant in Saltillo, Mexico, where Cat Trucks have been assembled. Cat will build its trucks at a plant in southern Texas.
Navistar also continues to make and sell the lower-cost WorkStar series for the vocational market, which uses steel cabs with shorter hoods. The WorkStar, which will get a new alphanumeric designation later this year, primarily serves the municipal market, while the HX will go after retail vocational customers who want lighter weight and, in some cases, premium trim, executives said.
International HX trucks will use popular vendor-supplied powertrain and chassis components from Cummins, Eaton and Allison, among others, in what Kozek called “open integration.” This is counter to an industry trend often called "vertical integration," in which competitors have introduced and encouraged the sale of their own components.
Turning to suppliers such as Cummins helped Navistar in its recovery from financial and product problems following a failed EPA-2010 emissions strategy, and Kozek called Cummins a "great partner."
The truck builder is working hard to regain its reputation by building quality products and focusing on reliability and service advancements, some using telematics and electronics.
Since new management took over, executives have appeared enthusiastic about their products and improved corporate performance.