With thunderous beats pulsating through the Forum Ballroom at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Caterpillar dropped the curtain on its recent product introduction that is sure to shake-up the vocational truck marketplace.
The Peoria, Ill.,-based equipment giant unveiled the CT660 in front of the trade press on March 20, capping months of anticipation and a five-year research and development campaign that took Caterpillar to the icy roads of Alaska.
“At -35 degrees F, strange things happen when you drive a truck,” said George Taylor, director, On-Highway Truck Group, for Caterpillar. “This is the only truck worthy of the Cat name.”
The move into the vocational truck arena is a natural one for Caterpillar. The manufacturer has spent 40 years serving customers in the market, and has even won seven J.D. Power awards for its on-highway division.
“We’ve got a long history of looking at what our customers want,” said Taylor. “Our goal was defining the ideal truck.”
Taylor said the new Cat trucks are “purpose-built,” with a focus on safety and driver fatigue. Serviceability also will be a distinct advantage, as Taylor boasted about a U.S. and Canadian dealer network that includes more than 400 service locations and over 7,000 mobile field service trucks.
Engine options include the Cat CT11, CT13 and CT15 with horsepower ratings from 330 to 500 and peak torque ratings from 1,450 to 1,850 lb-ft.
The engines combine an advanced exhaust-gas-recirculation system (EGR) with a high-pressure common-rail fuel system and precision intake-air management system.
The CT660 was dressed in red as opposed to the classic Cat yellow, and Taylor said customers could order any color they want.
“Every time when we showed the truck to leadership they asked why it wasn’t yellow,” he said. “Customers need trucks other than yellow.”
However, Gary Blood, product manager for Cat’s On-Highway Truck Group, did show some similarities later in the program. He pointed out that the front of the CT660 looks like the rear of a Cat wheel loader, and that the sloped hood would offer better visibility. The CT660 also comes with a honeycombed grill, another shared characteristic.
The truck will be rolling off the assembly line by mid-summer, but orders are already coming in. Ed Cullen, manager of Cat’s On-Highway Strategy and Dealer Development, said over 100 have been placed without customers knowing of a price.
“I have two POs already,” said Brett Burns of Empire Machinery, a Cat dealer, “and that’s without customers looking at the specs or price.”
The second model of the Cat vocational truck line—the set-forward axle CT 680—will be available in 2013, with many more models to follow.
“This is not about a one-trick pony,” said Taylor. “We are going to have a full line of vocational trucks.”