Navistar Receives Long-Delayed EPA Approval for New 13-Liter Engine

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.

Recap of the Spring Trade Shows

2013-03-21_14-49-58_54  One of the highlights of spring is the trip to trade shows and meetings sponsored by the trucking industry. These shows allow companies to gain insight on trends within the industry, as well as future goals.

On March 11 we attended the Technology & Maintenance Council’s (TMC) 2013 Annual Meeting & Transportation Technology Exhibition in Nashville, TN. We kicked off the TMC meeting by attending the Heavy Duty Dialogue (HDD) conference which brings industry leaders and economists together with VP to CEO level executives from supplier companies from the on-highway, commercial vehicle industry.  This conference allows businesses to hear firsthand the condition our industry is in, and the problems we are facing.2013-03-21_17-11-46_473-1

Much was discussed at HDD about the direction of the industry. Class 8 trucks were a hot topic of discussion. Eric Starks, President of FTR Associates remarked that he is “cautiously optimistic” about Class 8 truck sales for 2013 with the market improving in the second half of the year. Another industry leader, Martin Daum, President and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, reported that “2012 was an extremely successful year for DTNA, but we can do better in 2013.”  With a 44% market share of the North American Class 8 market, Daum feels that it is DTNA’s job to look at the technology of the future. President and CEO Dick Giromini of Wabash National Corp, a leading trailer manufacturer predicted that the trailer demand will remain above replacement levels between 2013 and 2016. This is positive news for the industry.

2013-03-22_11-50-52_319-1After TMC we attended the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville Kentucky, which gave us an opportunity to hear several leaders in the Heavy Truck industry (at both the OEM and supplier level) talk about business forecasts for the industry and their companies.  Being able to connect with key customers and visits display booths allows opportunities for collaboration. At MATS, Troy Clarke, President of Navistar predicted that as long as manufacturing activity in 2013 continues to trend upward, the requirements to move materials for production will positively impact freight and truck sales.  He said that the three key issues at Navistar were: setting clear goals and metrics to achieve those goals; bringing the new engines to market; and delivering to the budget.  He also stated that the company would make financial progress on a quarter by quarter basis.

Attending these shows allows companies to stay in touch with industry progress to better serve clients. And, doing so at a large, enjoyable show is an added bonus!