One of the trucks on display that caught dealers' eyes was the Diamond Back 9900i Special Edition, demonstrating the ultimate owner-operator appeal of International's newest high-end offering. The Diamond Back featured a 250-inch wheelbase and Cummins N-14 525-horsepower engine. The 72-inch Hi-Rise Pro Sleeper was customized by Indiana Custom Trucks with features such as real oak storage doors, TV/VCR, refrigerator, microwave, inverter and pull-out desk. Chrome and stainless accessories by Panelite featured items such as a bumper light bar, lighted air cleaner fairings and chrome toolbox covers with the Diamond Back rattler.
"The premium conventional business has been dominated by a couple of players," said Duane Kynsh of Longhorn International in Austin, TX. "This is something we really needed. That's a really nice truck."
Owner-operators are not the only market International has turned more attention to. Severe service was another area highlighted at the fair, where the new 5000i series was shown in dump and mixer applications. The 5000i series, which replaced the Paystar line, was designed with specific specs for various vocational applications to make it easier for buyer and seller to get the right truck for the job.
International's share of the heavy-truck severe-service market dropped from around 23% in the early '90s to about 16% in 1997. Since giving severe service its own section of Navistar's truck group in January 1998, market share has rebounded to 20%.
In addition to viewing International products, with more than 100 suppliers manning booths, many dealers were doing some serious shopping. "I brought my parts manager," said Charles Kemna of Al Scheppers Motors in Jefferson City, MO, to take advantage of the discounts offered by vendors at the show. There were also a number of training classes offered.