Navistar Quality is Back, Says Clarke

Navistar CEO Troy Clarke:

One of the pillars in Navistar International’s drive to re-gain trust among both customers and dealers has been a focus on product quality. And the company’s new president and chief executive officer, Troy Clarke, says International trucks and engines are now in line with industry norms.

“In not too long we’ll be seen as a quality leader,” Clarke said in a recent exclusive interview with Today’s Trucking, noting that the company’s plant in Mexico is the equal of its American facilities.

Clarke was named to the leadership position at Navistar in April, having previously been president and chief operating officer for a brief period. He joined the company in January of 2010 and first served as president of Navistar Asia Pacific after retiring from General Motors. During his 35-year career at GM he held numerous leadership positions, including president of General Motors North America. He’s a mechanical engineer by original trade.

Last weekend Navistar announced the hiring of Bill Kozek as president of the company’s North America Truck and Parts business. He succeeds Jack Allen, who was promoted to COO last month. Kozek left a 26-year career at PACCAR, where he most recently served as vice president and general manager of Peterbilt.

To say that Navistar now has a strong leadership team at the top may be something of an understatement, but given its difficulties over the past two years, it’s clear that nothing less than ‘strong’ would do.

The quality hurdle appears to have been met, and Clarke says pulling costs out of the equation is well in hand.

“We’re very pleased with the results,” he told us. “We’re meeting our cost targets. We’ve pulled hundreds of millions of dollars out.”

That’s been accomplished in part by job cuts, with 700 people gone in North America and the same number in Brazil. The recent closing of its plant in Garland, Texas has also played a role, with 900 jobs lost. But a new focus on engineering has also been a factor on both cost and quality fronts.

Acknowledging that too much engineering time had previously been spent on engines as the company tried unsuccessfully to make exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) its emissions answer, Clarke says engineering practices have been carefully examined and reinforced.

The switch to selective catalytic reduction (SCR) last summer marked the beginning of the ‘new’ Navistar. The engineers are now more free, said Clarke, to focus on things like Project Horizon. An all-bells-and-whistles truck first shown at this year’s Mid-America show, it’s a demonstration tractor loaded with advanced powertrain, ergonomic and aerodynamic technologies that’s being tested now. Clarke says it’s a truck they’d like to be building in the next two to three years.

More immediately, the conversion to SCR has been proceeding. Navistar recently received certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its 13-liter engine with Cummins SCR technology. The engine is certified by EPA at or below the required 0.20 g/bhp-hr NOx. The first ProStar units with SCR-based 13-liter engines are being delivered now.

Navistar introduced its first SCR-based trucks for the U.S. and Canada last December with the launch of the International ProStar with the Cummins ISX 15-liter engine. At last month’s ExpoCam show in Montreal, the company re-introduced its 9900i and 5900 Paystar SBA vocational trucks with the ISX15.

Asked about that engine in the LoneStar, sales of which fell dramatically when a 15-liter engine couldn’t be spec’d, Clarke said only that it will be available. Soon.

Appearing to be under no illusions about completing the turnaround task, Clarke nonetheless sounded confident.

“The International brand has been around for over 100 years,” he told us. “We don’t do everything right but we do make everything right.

“I don’t think we’ve squandered the goodwill of our dealers and our customers.”

— RL

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

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