Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood

Now that the initial brouhaha has died down after the news broke of the Volkswagen Truck & Bus investment in Navistar last month, there is probably one big question that still needs an answer in a lot of North American minds:

Like, who the heck is Volkswagen?

Well of course, folks will say, that’s the German outfit that makes Beetles and Rabbits and designs a flowerpot into the dash? Sure is, but it’s a lot more than that. In fact its list of shareholdings is 19 pages long.

On the car side, Volkswagen AG also owns Audi and Porsche. Lots of people will know that much, but did you know that it also owns England’s Bentley brand? And Italy’s Bugatti and Lamborghini. And the Czech Republic’s Skoda. And Spain’s Seat. All of them are VWs in a way.

Even the famous Italian motorcycle brand Ducati is in the stable.

Many people will be surprised to know that it also makes VW-branded medium- and heavy-duty trucks, sold outside Europe but in some 35 countries, from a base in Brazil (more on that in a bit). That company is Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus Ltda. But VW also owns Sweden’s Scania and Germany’s MAN, and the latter will be especially important in helping Navistar move forward on these shores.

All told, Volkswagen Truck & Bus (spun off from the mother company last year)  produces trucks at 25 sites in 17 countries.

Both MAN and Scania produce their own engines. Scania also makes transmissions, its Opticruise automated manual being well regarded. The Swedish outfit’s 16.4-liter V-8, making as much as 730 hp, was available two years before the date called for by the Euro 6 emissions mandate.

MAN also makes engines, and in fact Navistar’s own 13-liter diesel is the result of technology sharing with the German firm. That long-established relationship paved the way in some respects for the new alliance, and that long-existing link will likely be at the core of the new partnership with Navistar. Scania’s involvement will be minimal, according to one expert commentator.

To confuse matters, Scania has also had its own long-standing cooperation with Cummins, particularly on fuel-injection technology. If you were to look at those 19 pages of VW shareholdings, you’d find Cummins-Scania XPI Manufacturing LLC based in Columbus, Ind. It’s a 50/50 partnership.

That raises questions about the future that Cummins might have in International trucks. It’s now a major partner with Navistar, supplying both engines and emissions aftertreatment systems. But we’ll leave that speculation alone for now.

Going back a bit, VW also produces a truck engine, the 9.3-liter NGD 370 for use in its very tall cabover, the Constellation, built in Brazil. The engine is good for up to 367 hp, and the truck can handle gross weights up to 125,000 pounds or so. You can also power that truck with a Cummins ISC. Transmissions by ZF and Eaton.

But let me clarify, if that’s the right word to use. VW did indeed design that NGD 370 engine, but it’s actually built by MWM International Motores, which is the Brazilian subsidiary of...wait for it...Navistar International.

Now, wait for this one...VW’s Brazilian truck-building operation was sold to MAN in 2008. But VW Truck & Bus in Germany has been busily buying an increasing share of MAN and now owns it all.

Is everything clear now?