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July 5, 2011

Cat Readies CT660 for Delivery

Caterpillar's own-brand highway truck for the construction industry should be reaching the dealers within the next few weeks. Designated the CT660, the 6x4 construction chassis is the first of what will be a full line of trucks and truck tractors targeted at construction and waste management operations.

Powered initially by 11- and 13-liter engines, by early 2012 there will also be a 15-liter engine in the all-new truck, all based on Navistar diesel engines. But given the troubled launch of those engines in their 2010 guise, it will be interesting to see if the CT660 introduction slips.

The CT660 is being manufactured for Caterpillar by Navistar at its Garland, Texas, plant where it currently builds the PayStar, the construction truck formerly known as the 5000-Series. The new Cat CT660 uses the aluminum cab and frame rails from the Navistar product. A new hood with its highly serviceable design gives the truck a new and identifiably Caterpillar look, borrowed from a recently introduced Cat loader: a brushed stainless steel grill surround, a sloping hood and beveled edges with similar honeycomb grill material all carry over the Caterpillar look..

Various vocations were represented in the four trucks on display in Las Vegas. Predominantly, the Cat truck (that’s where the CT designation comes from) will be available for many different applications, but Cat clearly sees it as a hauler of materials that can be loaded by a Caterpillar machine. It will be sold and serviced exclusively by Caterpillar dealers, giving Cat customers a one-stop-shop for their yellow equipment and for the trucks that can support it.

However, the difference with the truck is that it will be available in a wide range of colors – including yellow – with automotive paint finishes and up to four colors per paint scheme.

Caterpillar said at the launch that 70% of the target market for the CT660 is already associated with Caterpillar, either through owning and operating non-highway equipment, or through operating Caterpillar powered trucks from manufacturers supplied by Cat over the 40 years it has been supplying engines to the over-the-road truck market. In fact, 1.6 million Caterpillar engines are running today on North American roads and are serviced by Caterpillar dealers across the nation providing the strong base for the support for the new Cat-branded truck..

Cat sees its dealer body as one of the pillars of strength behind the new product launch. They are among the strongest, most financially sound dealers in North America, with more facilities than any competitive truck manufacturer, with parts and service responsive to the urgent needs of equipment operators. As such, they are best able to support the launch of the new truck and the many models that will follow. The next introduction is timed for early 2013, when a set-forward front axle will join the set-back CT660 just launched.

Engines at the launch are also from Navistar, based on the 11- and 13-liter big bore engines the company offers in its own International trucks. In the Cat CT660, the engines are painted yellow and have power ratings in line with the most popular engines used in the vocational applications: 330, 365, 375 and 390 hp for the 11-liter and 410, 430 and 475 for the 13-liter. In other respects the engines are similar to those in Navistar International products. This includes the use of Advanced Exhaust Gas Recirculation to meet the EPA2010 regulations without the need for chemical exhaust aftertreatment. The preferred transmission backing up and integrated with these engines is the Caterpillar CX31 torque-converter six-speed box that is derived from transmissions used in heavy Caterpillar equipment. Options, though, include Eaton manual and automated transmissions for operators who want conventional over-the-road transmissions.

The cabs are similar to the International PayStar’s and the trucks are assembled on the same line at the Navistar Texas plant. However subtle changes exist and Cat says that many cab components have been upgraded for the CT660. Inside the trucks are completely different with the Cat model getting a dashboard developed by the company’s own ergonomic team that is familiar with the needs of drivers and operators of its most complex machines Most significant is the big dual-function speedometer/tachometer in the middle of the display. Combining both functions frees up “real estate” allowing for the addition of four gauges each side that all fall within the arc of the steering wheel and result in none being covered up by the wheel or the driver’s hand when driving.

In the center stack of the secondary dash are supplementary gauges and robust rocker switches that can be operated by a driver wearing heavy gloves if necessary.

Unique to the Cat truck is Caterpillar’s proprietary telematics product that gives connectivity with the trucking operation and the Caterpillar dealer network. It provides unique business solutions and every CT660 will come with the connectivity and the first three years of subscription pre-paid.

Interiors are designed to offer the same distinctive Cat logo appearance, with styling accents that mirror the big stainless steel grill surround up front and the beveled edge of the hood. The hood incidentally is manufactured from Metton, a material that is light, tough and has an automotive-grade finish to accept a high quality paint finish. Ensuring easy repairability in the rough and tumble of construction use, the hood is five-way repairable, with plastic fender extenders that can sustain deflection without damage. Then the fenders can be individually replaced without having to change out the entire hood. Likewise the front bumper is a three piece design. The outer wings can be bent through 180 degrees without damage to the center section, making one of the most damage-prone areas on a vocational truck quick, easy and inexpensive to repair.

Easy service and repair has been another pillar of the design of the CT660. Daily service points are easy to see and reach for the driver, the doghouse is redesigned for the Cat truck to make the engines more accessible for technicians, and oil and filter service intervals are stretched to 25,000 miles. The extended life coolant is good for 600,000 miles without need for a booster at mid mileage.

Cat is not shy about the fact that its truck will occupy a premium position in the marketplace. The offsets will be the lower cost of ownership through reliability and uptime, through the durability that will see high residual values or an extended life in operation. And many Caterpillar customers will clamor to have a Cat truck in a premium fleet of yellow equipment. Officials at the launch said they expect the CT660 and other models to be introduced over time will put Cat into a leadership position among its construction truck competitors.

The order board opened in April and the first trucks will reach dealers and customers by July of this year. Dealers are excited to have the truck to sell and service and predict a very healthy order board for the new truck from all operators, be they mega construction fleets or owner-operators who want to be first on the block with the Cat brand on the grill.

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