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New truck launches coming up in 2017

New truck launches coming up in 2017

After almost a decade of economic volatility, fuel price hikes and political instability, a sense of optimism has returned to the trucking community in 2017 – signified by a second wave of new truck launches about to hit our shores.

A fter a lengthy period of lacklustre growth, Australia’s highly contested transport equipment market is on the road to recovery. Backing up a strong finish to 2016, the Truck Industry Council (TIC) reported solid growth for both January and February, making for the best start of a year in almost a decade.

Spurred by a wave of new product launches at the end of 2016 – culminating in the much anticipated arrival of a new Kenworth model – confidence has seemingly returned to the market, even though it may take another month or two to see just how stable the recovery truly is.

Kenworth, for example, has been markedly buoyant following strong sales of the new T610 model – so much so that the company’s Bayswater factory is now stepping up production to meet demand and shorten lead times. Mercedes-Benz has shown equal confidence in the new Actros model following the official reveal in November, with a constant stream of PR material leaving the industry in no doubt that the new model is here to shake up the establishment.

MAN’s new TGX D38 is reportedly also finding traction in the marketplace: To suit the crucial, yet unforgiving B-double segment, it moved from a 3.08 final drive to a 3.36, allowing it to take full advantage of the D38’s torque and the ZF Traxon transmission. Both on the sales leader board and on the road, the TGX D38 now capably holds its own against the competition.

Inspired by such success stories, a second wave of new product launches is now expected to hit the Australian market, some of them just in time for the upcoming Brisbane Truck Show. In the largesse surrounding the T610 launch, for example, the new 510hp version of the DAF CF will likely get a share of the limelight as we convene in Queensland.

Hino’s new 500 series will also make a public outing at the Brisbane Convention Centre, even though it, too, has already been launched at a stand-alone event before (see expert’s view). Still, Hino will likely get the lion’s share of the attention in Brisbane, not least because it first announced to only launch one model in 2017 – the 4x4 version of the 300 series – but then dropped the new wide cab 500 series as a surprise only half a year on.

While Iveco Trucks Australia will also be exhibiting in Brisbane, the brand’s focus is currently on the official launch of the revived International brand in the lead-up to the industry gathering. The initial offering will be the Navistar-manufactured ProStar, which will likely be made available with a 15-litre driveline.

The buzz around the return of International has already taken away from the imminent release of the new Iveco Eurocargo, so we might see the Italian workhorse get some more attention at the Brisbane Truck Show. With a larger 6.7-litre Euro VI engine as well as a suite of smart features including adaptive cruise control, it could be more important for the brand than widely anticipated and will hopefully not get lost amid the clamour surrounding the ProStar launch.

Headquartered in Brisbane, Volvo Group Australia will likely make the most of the home advantage at the Brisbane Truck Show and showcase the upgraded 24-tonne UD PW range, which effectively takes the brand into the heavy-medium or medium-heavy segment. Mack has a large-scale safety upgrade about to hit, too, and will likely ride the east coast infrastructure boom as much as possible.

The future of JMC and Hyundai, meanwhile, will likely be decided outside the Brisbane Convention Centre. After figuratively putting their toes into the water of the Australian light-duty truck market in Q4’16 – in the hope to capitalise on a boom in the e-commerce and grocery delivery market – it has become suspiciously quiet around the Asian duo. While some in the industry have openly speculated that the strong competition from Isuzu, Hino and Fuso has forced the hopeful new entrants to pause and regroup, others still expect them to come out strong when the second wave of truck launches has receded. Hyundai in particular has done the homework after a false start some time ago and will be well aware of the challenge ahead, so it’s safe to assume the last word hasn’t been spoken yet.

Taking on a longer-term perspective, Freightliner will likely fast-track the ‘Australianisation’ of America’s best-selling heavy-duty truck, the Cascadia. Having learnt from mistakes made with the early Freightliner Argosy model and the previous Actros generation, the local Daimler organisation is now well aware of the requirements of the Australian audience, so the Cascadia could be just as impactful for the brand as the new Actros has been for Mercedes-Benz. In line with that, we should expect Daimler to follow the Volvo Group’s proven strategy – if you want a cab-over, it’s a Volvo, if you want a bonneted truck, it’s a Mack. As such, customers who historically gravitated to the Argosy will be steered towards the Actros – and will most likely be quite happy about it. For the bonneted truck fan, the Cascadia or Coronado will do the trick.

Buoyed by the success of the MAN TGX D38, Penske might also breathe some new life into the Western Star brand in the medium term. Sales for what was a serious contender only a few years back have all but halved since 2015, so speculation is running high that change is inevitable – even though the current generation trucks are still well appreciated by fleets and owner-drivers alike. 

For now, all we know is that stabilising truck sales have spurred new optimism all round, with many an OEM eager to join the narrative as soon as possible. The Brisbane Truck Show will be one high-profile opportunity to do so, but there seems to be much more in store for the market both before and after the event. Either way, momentum is well and truly building again.

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