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Mack's newest tractor unveiled

February 11, 1999

Mack VisionBy KERRY LYNN FRALEY / Staff Writer

photos courtesy of Mack Trucks Inc.




All of the engines and some of the transmissions for Mack Trucks Inc.'s new on-highway sleeper tractor - called the Vision by Mack - will be made in Hagerstown, company executives said Wednesday following the unveiling at Mack's Winnsboro, S.C., plant.

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The sleek, feature-filled truck was designed to boost Mack's competitiveness in the on-highway truck market, Paul Vikner, executive vice president of sales and marketing, said in a telephone interview.

The Allentown, Pa., company, a subsidiary of Renault V.I., employs about 1,370 workers at its powertrain plant on Maugans Avenue.

On-highway trucks, the kind used for shipping, account for about 70 percent of the total heavy-duty truck market, Vikner said. Vocational trucks, like garbage trucks, dump trucks and cement mixers, account for 30 percent.

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"For us to really grow our business, it's important for us to have a broader line of highway-oriented products," Vikner said.

The Vision will complement Mack's existing on-highway model, the CH, which mainly is used for regional and short hauls and for speciality applications requiring heavier truck components, like hauling fuel oil, Vikner said.

It's Mack's first step into some "pure highway application" markets, he said.

The Vision will be priced "in the ballpark with everyone else," Vikner said.

Mack - InteriorIts features include a light-weight, aerodynamic exterior design for improved fuel economy, a cab designed to be driver-friendly and lessen fatigue, roomy sleepers and advanced electronic systems providing trip and maintenance information to the driver and fleet manager, according to product publicity.

The E-Tech electronic engine, built only at Mack's Hagerstown powertrain plant, will be the only engine available in the product, Vikner said.

"The logic is it's going to mean more engines out of Hagerstown," he said.

A Mack six-speed transmission unit, matched to the E-Tech, will be one of several transmissions offered for the Vision, but most of the transmissions will come from industry suppliers, mainly Eaton and Meritor, Vikner said.

That's because the Mack transmissions, made in Hagerstown, have a "very robust design suited for vocational or heavy-hauling applications," he said.

"There's more transmission than the truck really needs," Vikner said.

Using a transmission that fit the truck's needs costs less and makes the truck more competitive, he said.

The truckmaker has been increasing its share of the heavy-duty market for six consecutive years, Vikner said.

The company has a short-term goal of raising its market share from just under 13 percent of the heavy-duty truck market to 15 percent in two years, he said.

The company expects to sell about 2,500 Visions this year and even more in 2000, Vikner said.

The Vision should help the company reach its goal, because 2,000 trucks is roughly equivalent to 1 percent of the heavy-truck market, he said.

The Vision is in limited production of about three a day at the Winnsboro plant, said Steve Homcha, executive vice president of engineering and product planning.

The truck will remain on a "very modest" production schedule until July, when the numbers will be boosted significantly to meet the market, Homcha said.

The Winnsboro plant added 238 employees in the past two years, partly in preparation for Vision production and partly to meet demand for the CH, he said.

If sales take off the way Mack executives anticipate, they'll be looking at increasing production at both the Winnsboro and Hagerstown plants, which could mean more jobs, Homcha said.

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