Truck Thursday: Caterpillar CT660: A New Truck from the Bones of Another

Welcome to another Hooniverse Truck Thursday. This time I’ve had a little prodding from one of our readers, CherokeeOwner, who thought it would be a great idea to highlight the fact that Caterpillar has entered the Heavy Duty Truck Market, and has launched the website Well, your old pal UDMan is here to set the record straight… The Caterpillar CT660 is actually built by Navistar, who builds International Trucks. It’s a new set of clothes on an International, to appeal to a whole different audience.

A little history; Caterpillar is a well known maker of heavy duty construction and mining equipment, as well as providing industrial diesel engines for electric generation, and powering anything from locomotives to cruise ships. For some time, they were also one of the premiere builders of medium and heavy duty truck engines. However, things were starting to change with the ever stringent emission regulations, beginning in the 2001 model year. Caterpillar introduced ACERT (Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology) Technology to meet 2004 EPA regulations for on-highway trucks. As with anything new, there were teething problems once released to the market, and once loyal Caterpillar customers started to look for alternatives. There have been two more cycles in which diesel emission regulations have become tighter, and Caterpillar announced on June 12, 2008 that they were vacating the heavy-duty truck engine market.

There was data compiled by Wards Auto during the summer of 2008 that shed light on why Caterpillar pulled out of the market at that time. The study points out that the heavy-duty diesel market can be adequately supported by only one independent engine maker, not two. Proprietary truck engine makers were quickly gaining market share, and the data compiled by Wards seem to prove it. Cummins Diesel held the top spot in sales at that time with an over 40% share, followed by Daimler owned Detroit Diesel (and Mercedes-Benz Diesel) with just over 24%. Volvo and Mack combined held a little over 13%, and Caterpillar held onto 12.5%. Of that market share, almost 65% of the engines sold went into Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. The parent company of both brands (Paccar) rolled out their own propriety engine line in 2010. In that same study, Navistar held onto a 9.3% market share.

An International PayStar

It was also during 2008 that Caterpillar and Navistar International signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate on a number of engine platforms and to pursue global on-highway truck business opportunities. The two firms plan is to develop diesel applications that support each company’s decision not to utilize the urea-based selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology, adopted by almost all the other major diesel engine makers.

Caterpillar was also trying to offer a complete power-train package to other truck makers, combining a high horsepower diesel engine with their CX31 Automatic Transmission, but with the OEMs offering their own engines and transmissions, this concept virtually hit a dead end. The decision for Caterpiller was clear… Build their own truck, and market research seemed to support this decision. There is over 70% of Caterpiller equipment customers who own backhoes, front-end loaders, dozers, and other such machines that also operate vocational trucks such as dump trucks, tank trucks, and heavy duty tractors trucks. There is over 400 Caterpillar dealers across the US, which is ready made to support the plan to offer “one-stop shopping” for their construction, mining, and oil rigging customers.

A New International PayStar Chassis

This is where Navistar International comes in. The Caterpillar CT660 is based off the bones of the International PayStar Chassis, and is built on the same assembly plant as the Paystar in Garland Texas. As of September, the plant had enough production capacity and was operating one shift, four days a week. The plant not only builds the CT660 along with the PayStar, but they also build the WorkStar, TranStar, military trucks, and some TranStar Tractors, so it looks like Caterpillar can get all the units they want.

The Caterpillar Engines are basically International MaxxForce Engines, and are offered in 10.5L, 12.4L, and 15.2L sizes, with horsepower ratings from 330 to 550. Comparing the Caterpillar Engines to the International Engines side by side, and the power output is identical. The major difference between the two is the paint color; Yellow for Caterpillar, and Blue for International. Both companies have decided to bypass the Urea based SCR emission system, which virtually every other truck company has adopted.

So, how does this tie-up benefit both companies? For Navistar, the addition of the Caterpillar Truck consumes production capacity at an underutilized plant, makes Navistar a player in the heavy-duty vocational market where it is under-represented, and spreads out the product development costs over a larger number of units produced. For Caterpillar, it’s another product that their 400+ dealers in the US (and eventually their other dealers world wide) to sell to a very broad customer base who currently shop elsewhere, and to offer their customers a one-stop shopping experience in the purchasing and maintenance of their capital equipment.


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