Western Star’s light still shines

TORONTO — Contrary to some recent rumors, Western Star Trucks isn’t going to be folded like its former Sterling cousin

Daimler Trucks North America will continue with the revered quasi-Canadian vocational player as a niche enterprise, not unlike Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.

Western Star Trucks is now a separate organization within the DTNA group, with its own executive team led by new general manager Michael Jackson. It will have its own research and development resources as well. The truck will continue to be built at the DTNA plant in Portland, Ore., not moved to Mexico as was once planned.

Jackson allows that Western Star sales numbers are small overall but strong in certain vocational segments and in Canada. The brand finished 2008 with a market share here of just over 5 percent but seems poised to finish 2009 at closer to 7 percent. The numbers are less pleasing in the U.S., where 2008 sales were fewer than those in Canada (1227 vs. 1290).

DTNA finds niche lanes for Western Star

But Ann Demitruk, director of marketing, says that in vocations like mining, construction, logging, and the oil industry, Western Star’s market share is as high as 28 percent.

The highly popular LoMax, to name one model, will be back with 2010 power by the middle of the year to satisfy the many requests from owner-operators who like the low-riding but high styling flat-top sleeper tractor.

Canadians especially have a soft spot for this brand, given its northern roots, its popularity amongst western log and lumber haulers, and the fact that it was built in Kelowna, B.C. until 2002.

As production first moved to Portland, then on to Mexico, it did seem as if Western Star was potentially at risk since Freightliner’s introduction of the Coronado SD seemed to be in direct competition. 

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