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Taking the bulldog for a walk

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Sin City has built a healthy tourism industry and created an adult playground based on the catch phrase "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."


LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Sin City has built a healthy tourism industry and created an adult playground based on the catch phrase “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

Mack Trucks however, is breaking the rule of the popular slogan and using Las Vegas as the starting point for a North American tour of its latest truck offerings.

The Mack Performance Tour kicked off with a special dealer and customer event in Las Vegas on June 7-9. What happened at the event in Las Vegas will not remain a Las Vegas secret, as shortly afterward the trucks hit the open road with each Mack loaded to capacity to give customers a real feel for the power of the new MP7 and MP8 engines.

“Nothing beats a hands-on experience to get customers excited about new products,” said Tom Kelly, Mack vice-president, marketing. “Customers have told us they really want to see the US 07 engines and experience their operation so they can get comfortable with the emissions technology. So we are sending these trucks on the road to demonstrate the quality, productivity, reliability and performance of our trucks and new engines.”

With record new truck sales in 2006 resulting from a pre-buy strategy due to incoming emissions regulations, many OEMs felt a dip in truck sales with the turn of the calendar in 2007.

As such, trucks outfitted with the new line of engines are still in the minority of rigs travelling the North American highway network.

“January has come and gone, and there’s not a lot of 07 trucks on the road. We’re going to send the product to the customer and get them in the seat,” explained Kelly. “We’re going to debunk the myths of 07 trucks. There’s nothing to fear, it’s a good truck.”

Twenty Mack Granite and Pinnacle trucks fanned out across North America, beginning in late June, to spread the news about the performance and power of these vehicles equipped with EPA 07-certified Mack MP engines. The Mack Performance Tour trucks are all production vehicles built on the assembly line and will visit Mack dealerships in Canada and the US through the end of September.

“I’ve been with Mack for 34 years and I’ve never seen as much change in our product in the previous 30 years, as we’ve had in the past three years,” noted David McKenna, powertrain products manager with Mack.

Leading up to the implementation of the EPA 07 emission regulations, many articles in magazines such as this one focused on the new engine technology and diesel particulate filters.

But the Mack Performance Tour will be showcasing not only the new engines, but also a number of new features to the trucks themselves.

“A lot of emphasis is being placed on the new engines and DPFs, but we’re showing a complete new package,” said Jerry Warmkessel, marketing product manager for highway products with Mack.

At the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 20 trucks chosen for the Mack Performance Tour were lined up and ready for a seven-mile trip, to offer a first-hand feel for the new features.

Climbing into a bright yellow Pinnacle with a 60″ mid-rise sleeper, one can easily pick out a few of the new features.

The cab itself has been designed with ergonomics in mind, providing more comfort to the driver. The dashboard is set at an angle putting all the controls and switches within comfortable reach of the driver, rather than having to stretch across a straight dashboard.

More room has been added around the pedals and the pedals have also been placed on the same plane, in an effort to make it easier for a driver to move from the accelerator to the brake.

With the MP7 405E engine fired up and steering onto Interstate 15, the conversation with the test driver is not once strained by engine noise or sounds from surrounding traffic.

“We met with a lot of customers and had them bring their drivers out, and their biggest concern was noise, which led to our noise reduction changes,” explained Warmkessel.

The noise reduction changes to the new line of trucks feature an enclosed bulkhead, along with filled and insulated mats.

For safety consideration, Mack has made the Bendix ABS road stability system a standard feature for its Class 8 trucks.

The system provides stability to a truck by providing core antilock braking, along with Bendix Smart ATC and ESP, to keep a truck under control before it has an opportunity to roll over or jackknife.

“We think it’s the right thing for society and that’s why we did that,” added Warmkessel.

As for the new engines themselves, the Mack MP7 and MP8 engines offer customers a broader range of engine offerings than the previous generation of Mack engines, with more horsepower ratings.

The engine ratings are aimed to be more precisely matched to customer applications; and the engines’ higher power density makes it possible for customers in some weight-sensitive applications to select the smaller displacement MP7.

“We expect these thoroughly modern engines to deliver improved fuel economy over the previous generation of Mack engines, especially for our vocational customers,” Kelly added.

All the technology included in the engine and the new trucks is not a free giveaway and Kelly admitted customers might still be apprehensive about purchasing new trucks due to the increased costs.

“Some people might be waiting for some 07 street price to emerge and we don’t think it has yet. But we are staying competitive; it’s a tough, tough issue but in the end customers need to buy trucks,” he explained.

“There is some sticker shock, but all the technology and improvements aren’t free and neither is a cleaner environment. We’re not going to incur any self-inflicting wounds.”

Mack dealerships will publicize their own Performance Tour events locally with customers while Mack will unveil a special Web site in mid-June to update tour schedules at www.mackperformancetour.com.


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