The power behind proprietary powertrains
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The power behind proprietary powertrains

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Jason Morgan is the content director of Fleet Equipment.

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Adoption of proprietary integrated powertrains continues to climb, making up the majority of today’s Class 8 orders. At the launch of the Volvo VNR during ExpoCam, held in Montreal last month, Wade Long, director of product marketing for Volvo Trucks North America, said that demand for the Volvo engine makes up around 93% of orders and its I-Shift automated manual transmission is at about 83% “and growing.” In fact, Volvo’s I-Shift demand number is up nearly 10% since Fleet Equipment named automated manual transmissions (AMTs) as our Truck Equipment Trend of the Year back in December of 2014.

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“We have a lot of control over our own powertrain,” Long said. “Our exceptional efficiency, XE, package, for example, is where we downspeed the engine—we drop it 200 RPMs. For every 100 RPMs we drop, we save 1.5% fuel economy. We are able to drop it that low that because of the I-Shift transmission integration.”

Within Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA)’s brands, demand for its proprietary powertrain, which includes the Detroit engine lineup, the Detroit DT12 AMT and Detroit axles, hovers within the mid-70s percentage-wise in the on-highway segment.

“In the Western Star 5700XE, we’re seeing penetration rates as high as 70% with the Detroit DT12,” reported Kelly Gedert, manager of powertrain and components marketing for DTNA. “We’re seeing those same trends on the Cascadia side as well. We’re expecting DT12 penetration rates in 2017 to be close to 80% when looking at the combined take rate in the Classic Cascadia and New Cascadia. DT12 is the only AMT that will pair with the Detroit engine offering in the New Cascadia.”

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It’s too soon to say what the proprietary powertrain take rate will be on the New Cascadia as the orders roll in and DTNA rolls out its staggered powertrain offerings. But Kary Schaefer, general manager of marketing and strategy for DTNA, expects to see strong demand for the Detroit powertrain.

“It has proven its fuel efficiency, durability and reliability,” she said before explaining that the continued development of Detroit’s Intelligent Powertrain Management (IPM) system will drive further improvements. “We continue to refine the algorithms we use to predict the terrain ahead of the vehicle to improve fuel efficiency. With the data and information we get from experiences in the field, the integrated electrical architecture allows us to squeeze out even more improvements. We can do that because we have the deep integration of data and powertrain components.”

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From a fleet’s perspective, it’s not just the increased operational efficiency. Proprietary powertrains are also improving after-the-sale service and support.

“The main reason I moved this way was because the manufacturer is offering extended warranties on their proprietary parts and honoring these repairs at their dealerships without delay,” explained Peter Nativo, vice president of fleet solutions at Oakley Transport. “In the past, you would have to wait for approval from the engine manufacturer or the suspension manufacturer before they would start the repair. It would cause delays in getting the truck up and running. Now, I have one-stop shopping—I call one person whom I purchased the truck from, and all my issues are addressed without delay.

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“In my world,” Nativo continued, “it’s all about uptime to keep the wheels rolling. If our trucks are down, then we don’t make deliveries and we don’t make a profit.”

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