KIRKLAND, WA. During a press briefing on Friday morning at its Kirkland, WA, headquarters, Kenworth assistant general manager-sales & marketing Preston Feight announced that the company’s new T680 tractor has begun production. The tractor began rolling off the line on Monday, May 21.

The announcement was part of a wide-ranging discussion with industry press that touched on a number of subjects, including natural gas vehicles and a general look at Kenworth’s portfolio now that the T680 and K270 and K370 cabovers have joined the line.

Kenworth formally presented the keys to the first K370 cabover on Thursday to Coca-Cola Refrehments at a ceremony at that company’s Bellevue, WA, facility.

The bulk of the discussion, though, centered around the T680 and its place in the Kenworth lineup.

“From our standpoint, we can take the market and if someone is looking for the widest cab that competes with the Volvo, we have that in the T700,” Feight said. “If they want a [more traditional width] cab, we have that in the 1.9-meter [T660]. Now we have the 2.1 meter [T680] where we think the majority of the market is going to go; it’s a cab that can be for team drivers or for solo drivers.

The T680, which Gary Moore, Kenworth general manager and Paccar vice president, said cost the company $400 million and 4 years to develop, has a design life of 1.5 million miles with a B10 life of 1 million miles. It is 10% more aerodynamic, 5% more fuel efficient, and lighter weight than the T660, said Moore.

“We wanted to hit all the attributes that a driver is looking for, and for what the owner is looking for,” Moore said, noting that the technological advances include added length and width over the T660, but about 100 lbs. less weight.

The company spent time focusing on driver attributes with this truck, including a 30% larger door, Xenon forward lighting, 40% less noise inside the cab, and 65% more interior storage. The cab also includes many driver amenities such as swivel seats, a foldout table, and the Kenworth NavPlus navigation and entertainment center with in-dash color display.

“The most noticeable thing I’ve noticed when I’ve driven the truck is the visibility and lower noise level,” Moore added.

According to Kevin Baney, chief engineer, the T680 is borne out of customer feedback. To begin the process, Baney said, Kenworth not only looked to its design team, but also to customers and even competitors’ models.

“They were able to get really good feedback,” he said. “We’re confident that we can say the T680 is best in class.”

Feight noted that Kenworth has embarked on a significant customer outreach program for the tractor, an effort that has seen the truck mingle with Lamborghinis at an exotic car show, on a Las Vegas race track, and the Kenworth Road Tour that will see the truck visit over 100 cities and dealers in the next several months.

“We can go out and talk about trucks all day long, but nothing sells a truck like using it,” Feight said.

Part of the design task was to create a “flexible” platform that can be customized based on customer specs.

“What we wanted to do was have the product remain very flexible,” Moore said. “There is a lot of benefit in the multiple products we can now offer.

“We feel very excited by the T680, but we feel really excited about it being an extension of our product line for our customers,” Moore added.

The continued movement of the industry towards aerodynamic models, including the new Kenworth model, does not mean the end of long-nosed trucks, though, and that includes the company’s W900L model.

“If you’re a flatbed hauler hauling a piece of equipment, it’s still kind of cool to have that long nose,” he said.

Noting that companies are ramping up production of natural gas products, where those fit into the Kenworth portfolio became a topic.

Natural gas models, Feight said, could make up 5-10% of the market within five years, but “unfortunately it’s not a solution for everyone.” He said Kenworth is seeing a lot of interest from fleets looking to test the vehicles in different applications, but that there doesn’t seem to be a single application where it will dominate at this point.

LNG and CNG both fit in some applications well, Moore said, but infrastructure concerns remain as does weight due to extra tanks and cost premiums. All of that must be worked out still, he added.

The addition of the K270 and K370 cabovers fill another gap in the lineup, Feight said.

“There are areas with length restrictions, whether it is time of day or overall length, and the cabover fits nicely into that,” he said. “What we didn’t have before is a tight urban truck. Now we do with the K270 and K370.

The K370 is the Class 7 model and the K270 a Class 6. Both come in wheelbases to accommodate a variety of body lengths, ranging from 16 to 28 ft.