Sweetening International flavor

Trucks Article December 28, 2000
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The people who produce International trucks have changed the way they do things

The people who produce International trucks have changed the way they do things. And the revised approach is already paying dividends, according to Steve Keate, head of the company’s truck group.

After joining the company in 1995 as a controller, Keate moved up to the top truck job and has made it clear that just about everything is changing during his regime.

One development that is sure to have pleased shareholders is that operating income surged to a record high of $837 million in 1999, up $10 million from the previous record set in 1979.

Owners aren’t the only ones benefitting from current changes. Keate claims customers and unionized truck workers also are among the winners.

"We are doing all we can to make sure that the company gets and stays focused on satisfying the customer," Keate said. "International dealers are lining up to deliver more of the things customers want to see done for them."

Keate made a point of stressing the name International, stating "I’ll have to admit that we lost our way when we started using the name Navistar. International is the name by which our customers know what has been good for them in their trucks."

Delivering the goods

The entire lineup of products offered under the International name is undergoing a period of monumental change. New construction models were introduced in early 1999, which were followed by new linehaul tractors. Keate said they have been selling well.

Something close to a reworking of the entire International lineup, called the new generation vehicle program, will deliver a number of new models in early 2000 and carries a $650 million price tag.

In addition, several factories will get new assignments. Keate said company management has been able to work out a truce with the union at the Springfield, Ohio, factory which amounts "to all involved agreeing that the customer will be served."

What’s ahead for International truck? While Keate is generally upbeat on the outlook, he, like some others, can see a slight dip in sales in 2000. It’s being viewed as an outgrowth of the recent sales boom.

International’s participation in the engine business is seen by many as a major plus despite regulatory battles in that area. International is the only maker of medium trucks that produces its own diesel engines. It also sells many diesels to Ford.

A number of other automotive specialties are big business for International. The line’s big school bus operation has just announced plans for a new factory, while over in the global truck business a modern factory has been added in Mexico, where some of the production is being exported to Latin American nations and the U.S.

In an effort to eliminate delayed delivery problems, International promises a 5000i model dump truck (Circle 900) will be shipped within 60 days after ordering. The offer is being kicked off in the Southeast.

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