Western Star ready for move from Kelowna (June 27, 2002)

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WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — Freightliner LLC is making a $16 million investment to prepare the Portland Truck Manufacturing Plant for Western Star heavy-duty truck production.

In addition, Western Star engineering, manufacturing, customer support and other technical staff are relocating to Portland. The investments in facilities and personnel are intended to ensure a successful changeover of operations and to preserve the unique character of the Western Star brand.

Portland production of Western Star trucks begins in October 2002.

“Western Star is renowned for delivering distinctive, high quality trucks and providing superb customer support,” says Rainer Schmueckle, president and chief executive officer of Freightliner LLC (corporate parent to Western Star).

“During and after these operational changes, we are committed to maintaining the quality, unique character and prestige of the Western Star brand.”

Over the past several months, Western Star has made significant preparations to ensure quality and continuity in manufacturing, engineering, customer support and other key functions. The Portland truck manufacturing plant is undergoing major renovations to prepare for Western Star production. The company is building dedicated cab, chassis and sleeper lines for the Western Star product as well as a state-of-the-art E-coat system.

Opened in 1969, the plant has built a number of highly specialized vehicles over the years including U.S. military trucks and airport rescue/response vehicles.

Western Star is currently conducting a rigorous training program for Portland employees that includes the development of thousands of task instructions and training courses. To further contribute to a successful changeover, key Western Star manufacturing and operations personnel will relocate to Portland: Carsten Reinhardt, currently general manager of operations for Western Star in Kelowna, will become general manager of the Portland plant. Wayne LaRochelle, currently plant manager at Kelowna, will become director of manufacturing for Western Star in Portland. Tony McParland, quality assurance manager for Western Star, will retain his position and relocate to Portland.

The engineering group of Western Star also will remain distinct and will relocate to Portland. Cary Gatzke, a 17-year Western Star veteran in the engineering area, will lead the Portland-based Western Star engineering team.

“Western Star trucks are known for their quality, characteristic design and custom engineering — a reputation due in part to our expert and dedicated engineering team,” says John Merrifield, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Western Star Trucks.

“The Western Star engineering department, out of its new base in Portland, will continue its tradition of designing, developing and customizing outstanding heavy-duty trucks.”

Customers and dealers have had input advising the company on transition-related matters since Western Star convened a special Transition Advisory Group composed of folks from the U.S. and Canada. The group has been reviewing the company’s relocation plans, analyzing specific initiatives and advising on a variety of topics including product and service continuity.

“Throughout this changeover, it is essential that we closely involve dealers and customers, listen to their suggestions and put their ideas into action,” Merrifield adds.

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