The release of the latest UD shows just how much times have changed, there is only one transmission offered on the new UD Croner. In the past, a truck like this would be offered to market with a basic manual gearbox, and then, perhaps, a gearbox with more speeds or even an auto might be offered as an added option.
Not here, there is one transmission and that is the 3000 Series Allison six speed fully automatic option. In fact, surprisingly, UD has not gone with the Escot transmission, the Japanese manifestation of the Volvo I-shift, used higher up the weight scale in the Quon.
The factory fitted Allison transmission has been a feature of the lighter UD models for some time, with UD designed and built engines, but by moving across to the integrated Volvo Group engine, there was an opportunity to go for an all Volvo Group driveline.
The decision may well be based on a customer preference for the Allison which is becoming more and more ubiquitous in the medium market and fitted to a very large proportion of Japanese medium duty trucks sold annually.
There is a complicating feature to be considered
There is a complicating feature to be considered here, since the sale of the UD Trucks brand to Isuzu, announced just before Christmas last year. It was seen, at the time of the announcement, as a way of mixing the best of Isuzu with the best of UD Trucks.
For Isuzu, as a stand alone truck manufacturer in a world dominated by the larger global groupings, the deal was an opportunity to tap into the latest technological developments. Volvo’s global electronic architecture will have the effect of bringing the Japanese truck maker onto equal terms with its close competitors Fuso and Hino, which are already part of global corporations and have access to the results of massive research and development budgets.
In the Australian truck market, the Japanese trucks have tended to try and sell more on price and features, rather than the other way round. All of this electronic architecture comes at a cost.
Not surprisingly when looking at the part of the truck market in which the UD Croner competes, this new model doesn’t go as far as to match the electronic and computing power of its big brother, Quon. However, there is the multimedia player which was introduced as a a feature in the Condor when it was launched. The multimedia screen in the dashboard is the driver’s window into what is available. It can connect to five cameras, plus a navigation system and can be loaded with apps to perform a wide range of functions.
Meanwhile, the LCD screen directly in front of the driver gives access to more than just some basic data about the truck. It also includes things like a driver performance assessment system which will give the driver a running score on how they are performing, plus how economical the truck is being driven.
There is still a good deal of connectivity going on under the surface. To the right of the steering wheel is a USB port for the driver ID. Operators with Volvos, Macks and UDs in the fleet will be able to monitor trucks through Volvo Dynafleet, Mack Telematics or UD Telematics. The system in the UD will be able to talk to the rest of the group product. Driver ID is now readable across all three brands and the owner can access data from all three brands through the same portal.
All in all, looking at the new Croner from UD Trucks, it is a big jump up from where UD was, in terms of sophistication, from where the brand was, not too long ago. Becoming part of the Volvo Group has brought dividends and a lot of new technology to the table. this has been amply demonstrated in the latest Quon models and, to a lesser extent, in the new Croner.
There must still be plenty of questions to be asked about how this brand is likely to play out in the future, under the new arrangements with Isuzu. According to the Volvo Group Australia, UD will remain as part of its offering to the market and the group’s dealers will continue to be UD distributors.
The question is more about how the UD brand will develop globally under the wing of Isuzu. With the Isuzu brand’s dominance in the light and medium duty market, it is difficult to see how much of a future a model like the Croner will have, down the track.
However, looking at the success of the heavier Quon models, it is possible to see the design and strength of these models working their way across all of the larger Isuzu and UD models.
Looking at the situation from Isuzu’s global perspective, the main take away is probably the fact that the deal with Volvo Group will give them access to the kind of high tech development which has pushed the Volvo Group forward, as a whole, in recent years. The deal was probably a welcome one from both sides, with Volvo able to concentrate on its core in Europe and the US, while Isuzu gets new technology it wouldn’t have been able to develop on its own.