Special Coverage

Chicago Auto Show

CHICAGO – Despite its protracted battle with Ford Motor Co. over the supply of light-duty diesels, Navistar International Corp. remains interested in striking similar deals with other auto makers.

“The answer, of course, is yes,” Navistar CEO Dan Ustian says when asked if the engine and truck builder would be open to future such arrangements.

Ustian met with reporters at the auto show here, where Navistar unveiled its new Class 8 LoneStar flagship truck.

Ford and Navistar have been warring for more than a year over the supply arrangement, with Ford accusing Navistar of providing poor-quality diesels for its Super Duty F-Series pickups. Ford is suing to recover warranty costs resulting from what it says were defective engines.

Navistar launched a counter suit last year seeking to block Ford from building a 4.4L V-8 diesel it said is subsidiary International Truck and Engine Corp.’s own design.

“We want to be in that (fullsize pickup truck) market; we have great products,” Ustian says of continuing to be a diesel supplier to other auto makers. “One of the areas we think we have an advantage over anyone else is we don’t need (selective catalyst reduction). We do not need a urea-based answer for 2010,” when new U.S. emissions rules take affect.

Navistar’s D-Series truck from 1937, dubbed the DMAXX, was shown here packing a 3.9L 350-hp V-8 diesel from its own MaxxForce 7 line introduced last year. The engine family encompasses seven low-emission, fuel-efficient diesels, the truck maker says.

Asked if Navistar has a relationship with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., which is openly seeking a diesel for its Titan fullsize pickup truck, Ustian is vague.

“We touch a lot of customers; hopefully that will be one of them,” he says.

As for the continuing litigation with Ford, Ustian says the two sides could be back in court in midsummer, but he hints there’s also a possibility for a settlement to be reached without the help of the legal system.

“You could say that would be a good answer for (the situation), otherwise it will take a lot of time to evaluate the gripes of both corporations.”

Meanwhile, Navistar is promoting its LoneStar flagship, with a new aerodynamic nose, as a more fuel-efficient Class 8 truck.

“An aggressive V-shape channels the wind – keeping it managed all the way to the back of the cab to minimize drag,” the truck maker says, adding fuel savings of 5%-15%, or $3,000-$5,000 annually, are expected vs. classic, “square-nosed” trucks.

Expected to go into production in August at Navistar’s Chatham, ON, Canada, plant, the LoneStar will begin at $115,000. Dealer orders will be taken starting in April.

Tom Baughman, vice president-Navistar Heavy Truck Vehicle Center, says 42 accessories will be available for the LoneStar, with a goal to “approach what (BMW AG’s) Mini Cooper has done in the (aftermarket) business,” as well as motorcycle-maker Harley Davidson.

Factory-installed accessories include custom stainless steel sun visors, polished battery box cover and 24.5-in. wheels. Dealers can install a light-emitting-diode bumper light bar and laser-cut stainless front and rear mud flap weights.

The interior of the LoneStar mimics a luxury suite, with optional real-wood or plush-carpet flooring in the truck’s living space, as well as an available memory-foam mattress for the pull-down bed, which converts from a coach to a 42-in. sleeping space.

A mini-refrigerator and workspace to plug in a laptop are other cabin features. Navistar says such amenities are needed because the average driver spends 120 hours per week in his vehicle.

The development of the LoneStar represented a breakthrough for Navistar, marking the first time the truck maker has bypassed the prototype stage and gone directly from design to production.

Doing this, Baughman says, took plenty of “good data, good computational alignment and good calibration between our digital tools” and the test vehicles built during the development of the ProStar model line that debuted a year ago.

Rapid prototyping and some engineering mules validated design, assembly, serviceability, fit and finish and ergonomics, the truck maker says, adding only the “highest-risk” components were tested on the road or in the “shaker.”

Baughman says future models also will skip the prototype stage.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com