See video from the Cat CT660 unveiling

See photos of the Cat CT660

LAS VEGAS. Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) has officially entered the on-road truck market with the first public showing of the CT660, a heavy-duty vocational truck. Initial applications identified include construction, refuse, utility, aggregate and public services. Cat will begin taking orders for the new truck in April, with production beginning in May and first customer deliveries scheduled for July.

The set-back axle CT660 will be offered in truck and tractor day -cab models with 116-in. and 122-in. BBCs. Initially power choices will be 11L and 13L Cat-branded engines with a 15L diesel expected in the first quarter of 2012. Notable powertrain options include Cat’s own CX31 automatic transmission as well as standard and automated mechanical transmissions from Eaton, and axle choices from Meritor, Dana and Fabco

“This is just the beginning,” said George Taylor, director of Caterpillar’s on-highway truck group “This is not a one-trick pony,” he said here at a press conference held before the opening of the Conexpo-Con/Agg Show. “We’re going to having a full-line of heavy-duty vocational trucks.”

A set-forward axle model called the CT680 will be added to the Cat vocational truck line in 2013, “and we have a list of others we’ll be developing,” Taylor said. A twin steer 8x4 for Canadian markets and a model for more off-road use will be among those joining the line in the future.

The vocational truck project started over two years ago when Caterpillar announced that it was getting out of the on-highway diesel engine business in North America, but was beginning a partnership with truck and engine builder Navistar to develop an on-highway truck to complement its heavy equipment business.

The new Cat truck is being built under contract by Navistar at its Garland, TX, factory, where it also builds the International Paystar vocational truck.

While the CT660 will be assembled on the same line as the Paystar, it contains “fairly significant Cat unique content,” according to Gary Blood, product manager for the on-highway truck group. “Everything above the frame rail – the body, the interior – is ours,” he said at the introduction.

The new aluminum cab design picks up styling cues from Cat’s wheel loaders and its other iconic heavy equipment. Multi-piece stainless steel grille surround and bumper as well as flexible fender panels and a five-piece hood design allow users to replace damaged components rather than entire assemblies, Blood pointed out.

Inside, the Cat truck has an entirely new interior design ergonomically optimized for vocational applications, according to Blood. The sloped hood, wraparound windshield and cowl-mounted mirrors offer “best in class” visibility, he said.

Although painted Cat yellow, the CT11 and CT13 engines are essentially Navistar 11L and 13L diesels with ratings chosen by Cat specifically for vocational applications, according to Blood.

The engines use Navistar’s “advanced EGR” rather than selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to meet EPA’s 2010 emissions requirements. Governed at 2100 RPM, the Cat 11L will be offered in four ratings ranging from 330 to 390 HP, with peak torques up to 1450 lbs. ft. The CT13 will be available in three ratings – 410, 430 and 475 HP, with peak torques up to 1700 lbs. ft.

The 15L under development is based on Caterpillar’s discontinued C15 big-bore diesel, with a new common rail fuel system and electronic controls developed by Navistar. Power rating will stretch all the way up to 550 HP with 1850 lbs. ft. peak torque, according to Blood.

Cat’s equipment telematics system – Cat Product Link – will be standard on the CT660, which will come with a three-year complimentary subscription to wireless service. The system tracks fuel use, location history, idling and other operating parameters, as well as connects directly to Cat dealers’ parts and service operations.

Cat’s U.S. and Canadian dealer network, which includes over 400 service locations employing over 2,500 technicians, will be a key differentiator for the new premium vocational truck, according to Taylor. Not only are they experienced in servicing the 1.6-million Cat on-highway diesel engines currently running in the U.S. and Canada, but the new truck will fit well with their heavy-equipment customers, he said.

Those dealers will offer exclusive bumper-to-bumper service for the new Cat trucks. Parts stocking and training of both sales and technical staff is already under way, according to Ed Cullen, strategy and dealer development manager.

Although Cat has not released any pricing information other than to say the CT660 will be a premium truck, Cullen said there are already over 100 committed orders even though the company will not officially open its order boards until next month.