Ron Schultz is global on-highway truck sales and product support manager at Caterpillar Inc.
HDT: The Cat Truck started with the CT660 with a setback steer axle in 2011. Why did it take so long for the axle-forward CT681 to come out?
Schultz: Part of the process is our NPI, new product introduction. This involves rigorous testing of the product and getting customer feedback on the 660 and prototypes of the 681. We got feedback on what was needed on that axle-forward model – the simple, “industrial” styling, for example. We’ll have the 680 [an axle-forward tractor] in 2015, and we continue to evaluate our expansion. We might have something else [to announce] in mid year.
HDT: You’ll stay with vocational trucks?
Schultz: Yes. We continue to emphasize the Cat value story -- one-stop shopping, low operating cost and total life-cycle costs.
HDT: Cat Trucks are built by Navistar. Aside from establishing specifications, how close are you to the manufacturing?
Schultz: We have people on site at the factory [in Escobedo, Mexico]. There’s one resident who’s a Cat employee, but there are multitudes of our people who go there throughout the year for meetings and so forth. We inspect the trucks as they come down the line and off the line. So while it is a contract, we are involved in the manufacturing process. We’re happy with the quality that’s coming out of the factory.
HDT: Is anything left of the NC2 (“NC Squared”) Global, the joint venture with Navistar announced in 2009?
Schultz: It was dissolved in 2011. It was a 50-50 joint venture, and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Navistar. It involved activities outside of North America. Cat dealers in Australia and New Zealand are still involved with that. Navistar provides line-haul trucks branded Cat and sold and serviced by our dealers.
HDT: The project to develop a 15-liter diesel with Navistar was dropped. What are Cat’s plans for that size engine?
Schultz: We continue to offer the CT13. We’re getting close on announcing our strategy on engines, but I can’t say anything about that now.
HDT: How are sales with the Cat Truck?
Schultz: Business now is very strong. We’re seeing improvement year over year in sales. Feedback from customers is very positive, and more and more of our dealers are selling it. We’ve expanded into Mexico and Puerto Rico. We continue to evaluate where expansion would make sense. We have to look at local regulations, at fuel requirements.
HDT: Is China a country you’re looking at?
Schultz: Not in the short term. We do have a big presence there on the machine and power generation sides. The Cat Truck is obviously a different market.