The release of the Western Star 49X in the US sees the brand bring all of the latest technology from the Daimler group into the design of this one truck, for example, Detroit Assurance 5.0 is part of the package.
Immediately after the global launch of the truck with a new look and a new model classification, PowerTorque got an exclusive interview with David Carson, Senior Vice President Vocational Segment Western Star to get the latest on this new model and when it’s likely to arrive here in Australia.
“The way we sell the Detroit Assurance 5.0 in the US and in Canada is as an optional extra,” says David.” All of the new trucks which we are building for our dealers in North America as part of training and demonstration processes, will all have the full Detroit Assurance 5.0 fitted as standard. We believe we are going to be successful in having customers who see the system as a value proposition when purchasing the truck.
“With the current models, we built them both in Portland, Oregon and in Cleveland. We will start production of the trucks in Cleveland and then we will industrialise our facility in Portland, but not start building them there immediately. We want to be sure, as we introduce a new product that we have our processes and our supply chain solidified.
“We have an extremely flexible production system here in the US, but we believe that both Cleveland and Portland will continue to be production locations for our trucks. With our flexible production system we are able to build current Western Star, new Western Star and new Freightliner in the Cleveland plant. In Portland, not only will we be building the Western Star product, but also electric trucks. It’s a flexible production network with multiple product and multiple brands.”
One of the things which differentiates the Australian market from the US market is the level of customisation to meet individual customer needs that Australian operators are looking for. The plan is for the new production processes to be able to handle a larger amount of the kind of customisation Australians are looking for, actually on the production line in the US, with the rest of any customisation required to be done on its arrival in Australia.
With the introduction of the new models where Detroit Assurance 5.0 is part of the package, Western Star are picking up on the trend to increase the level of on-board safety electronic systems to safeguard and improve the comfort of the driver.
There is a balance to be had for Western Star, one of the important aspects of these new models is that the brand has to persuade potential customers that the unique appeal of the Western Star brand, which has served them well in the Australian market, is not diluted by its association with all of the componentry being introduced from elsewhere in the Daimler group.
“We are not unlike other global transportation companies,” says David. “It doesn’t make sense to have mutually exclusive capital investment on features and components which are more module types. For safety technology, you don’t create safety technology for one brand that’s completely different from the same type of technology for another brand, it doesn’t make sense, or value for us as a company.
“What’s really great about the new 49X is that we get to utilise components and technology from the Daimler capability that exists for our trucks. We utilise all of this in such a way to create value for our dealers and our customers. Everything else is really brand specific. In developing this new truck our ‘true north’ heading was all about Western Star, but using best in class technology.
“When you look at the new dual stage LED headlights that we are introducing on these trucks. First, they look fantastic, but secondly they have this incredible functionality which is unique to this truck. It does not exist anywhere else in the Daimler suite of products and it is very specific to the 49X.”
David Carson was unwilling to go into detail about the timeline for the introduction of other models within the Western Star range, which will be developed in a similar way to the 49X. The future development of any other models, which are likely to make their way to Australia will have to go through the same process as has happened for the 49X, while, at the same time, keeping that balance between the traditional ruggedness of the Western Star brand with the realities of modern technology and the requirements of customers into the future, including items where Detroit Assurance 5.0 is part of the package.
“We’ll have trucks here next year for testing,” says Craig Lee, General Manager On-Highway Penske Australia. “We will begin testing trucks, suited well to Australian conditions. Then we will have trucks in Australia for delivery, either late 2022 or very early in 2023. We are very confident that this truck will be ideal for tasks like B-double prime mover as well as in rugged heavy duty and vocational work.
“The new truck, with its safety and all of the new technology, is going to allow us to be far more competitive in the general on highway long haul segment of the market, than what we are today.”