Navistar International Corp. has announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally certified that the company’s new ProStar engine line complies with federal law regulating emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). The EPA approval provided resolution to the ongoing travails of the truck maker’s proprietary 13-liter heavy-duty, big-bore engines, which were recently converted to selective catalytic reduction (SCR) emissions technology. Navistar will now be able to sell these engines in the U.S. market without paying further penalties to the EPA.
A spokesperson for Navistar (formerly International Harvester Co.) said, “We’ve reached another milestone in our emissions strategy transition and are on track to deliver our first ProStar units with our SCR-based 13-liter engines at the end of April.”
The story behind the EPA’s ruling and Navistar’s decision-making process could serve as a cautionary tale for other vehicle manufacturers. The saga began a few years back when Navistar’s CEO at the time, Daniel Ustian, determined that the company should pursue a strategy of implementing an unproven emissions reduction technology called exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR), in which hot diesel exhaust is cooled to lower NOx tailpipe levels. According to a report in Fox Business News, Ustian believed at the time that EGR could meet the government’s strict exhaust requirements of less than 0.2 grams per brake horsepower-hour (g/bhp-hr) of NOx while also being less expensive to build than the competing SCR technology (used by the rest of the industry). SCR, which filters exhaust through a urea solution, adds about $10,000 to the price of a new truck, but it complies with the EPA requirement and offers truck operators better fuel economy, according to the Fox Business News report.
The problem with Ustian’s plan to grab market share by offering a cheaper engine than the competition ran into a brick wall when Navistar’s engineers were unable to get the EGR system to meet the emission standard. So by last summer, Ustian threw in the towel and opted to purchase SCR components built by Cummins Inc. Navistar then threw in the towel at Ustian, asking him to step down (for multiple reasons). His gamble had cost the Illinois firm an estimated $700 million. Moreover, Navistar’s market share fell during Ustian’s leadership from 21 percent in 2011 to 12 percent in 2012.
The good news to come out of all this is that Navistar has corrected its course and should soon be back on track, using a clean-air system in its heavy-duty truck engines that the rest of the industry has standardized around.
Here at Pentaflex, we’re glad to see the whole matter resolved. Navistar has a rich history in the truck industry, and we are happy to see they are on their way to a healthy future.