Getting a jump on the new year, in late October Mack Trucks Inc. introduced new models of its Granite and Granite Axle Back vocational trucks, launched a new highway flagship tractor and unveiled the MP7 — the first in a new family of Mack engines — at its World Sales Conference in Las Vegas.

“This is truly the start of a new era for Mack, said Paul Vikner, president & CEO. “The new products we're debuting directly respond to our customers' requirements and represent the combining of our heritage of reliability and durability with the latest in breakthrough technology.”

Both the new-for-'06 Granite and Granite Axle Back models are built on Mack's Cornerstone vocational chassis. The new vocational models have a 116-in. BBC and boast brand-new, driver-oriented cab interiors. Key features inside include greater leg and belly room, better gauge lighting, control layout, etc.

The new '06 Pinnacle highway flagship is available in a 116-in. BBC day cab configuration, as well as in 48- and 56-in. flat-top; 60- and 70-in. mid-rise, and 70-in. high-rise sleepers. All Pinnacles are built on Mack's Advantage highway chassis.

The first model in what will be the new MP (Mack Power) engine family, the MP7 is an 11-liter diesel that can be ordered as an Econodyne, Maxidyne or MaxiCruise in six ratings ranging between 325 and 405 hp. with torque ratings from 1260 to 1560 lb.-ft.

The OEM said the MP7's base architecture “represents the heart of Mack's solution to the 2007 EPA emissions regulations.”

For 2006, the MP7 will be offered in the new Pinnacle and Granite models in an EPA '04-compliant configuration. Mack noted the base design has the key elements to bring it into compliance with EPA '07 standards.

“The MP family is the future of Mack powertrain technology,” said Steve Homcha, executive vp-Class 8 programs. “The combination of reliability and technological advancements in these engines deliver the power, performance and profitability our customers demand.”

All three of the new truck models boast completely redesigned, driver-oriented cabs that the OEM said were “created after comprehensive research of customer preferences and ergonomics, including definition of the optimum driving position for operators of Macks.”

Mack said both highway and vocational users can “expect a significant improvement in fuel economy in the MP7 compared to current engines.”

Vikner charts road ahead

Mack chief Paul Vikner expects 2005 will end up a “very strong year” for Class 8 sales for the OEM and the industry in general and that sales in 2006 will “continue to be strong.”

Vikner, speaking at a press conference to introduce Mack's new models, said he doesn't see the heavy-duty truck build rate climbing much higher than it stands today “due to supplier [capacity] issues and the recognition industry-wide that there will eventually be a downturn” in the truck market.

Vikner did not outright say when he thinks that tipping point will be reached. He commented directly only on OEM prospects for 2005-2006, stating that “a lot will happen between now and 2007 and we don't want to create expectations [either way].”

But when the downturn comes, Vikner said it would be a smoother disruption for truck makers to transition over than the last one that struck [2000-2001] because “OEMs and suppliers are now taking what I'd call a much more responsible position on investing [in manufacturing facilities] vs. what happened in the last boom cycle.”

As for why truck sales should remain buoyant through 2006, Vikner gave most of the credit to the general economy. He said he questions how much of a “pre buy” there will be in ‘06 by fleets seeking to avoid buying new EPA ‘07 emissions-compliant engines the following year.

“We think most fleets will look at what trucks they will need in early ‘07 and maybe push [only] those into ‘06. We don't expect people will be buying trucks a year in advance.”

In light of the introduction of two new trucks and a new engine line, Vikner said there was “a clearly defined commitment to the Mack brand” by the OEM's corporate parent, Gothenburg, Sweden-based AB Volvo.

He emphasized that the “customer bases are different” for the two OEM brands — “that's why a Mack is a Mack and a Volvo is a Volvo.”
— DC