June 4, 2012 5:45 AM, EDT

Kenworth Begins Producing T680 Tractor, Completing 4-Year, $400 Million Investment

Kenworth Truck Co.
By Michael G. Malloy, Staff Reporter

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KIRKLAND, Wash. — Kenworth Truck Co. began production of its T680 at its Chillicothe, Ohio, truck factory late last month, company officials announced here.

Development of the heavy-duty tractor was more than a four-year, $400 million investment for the company, said Gary Moore, Kenworth’s general manager.

“The fundamentals are in place for a good truck market this year,” Moore told reporters May 25 following a daylong ride-and-drive of the T680 and other Kenworth models at parent company Paccar Inc.’s technical center in Mount Vernon, Wash.

Although the company did not divulge build or order rates, Moore said Paccar forecasts a total Class 8 truck market of 215,000 to 240,000 this year. He added that Kenworth’s year-to-date heavy-duty market share has risen to 15.7%, from 14.1% last year.

The T680 models at the ride-and-drive included 10- and 13-speed standard and automatic transmissions made by Eaton Corp., with Paccar MX or Cummins Inc. ISX engines.

Kenworth unveiled the T680 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, touting its 1.5-million mile lifespan, lightweight aluminum design, interior space and 10% improved aerodynamics (4-2, p. 8).

At MATS, company officials compared the interior driver comforts to those of a Lexus.

“We realize our products are a premium, and we sell them at a premium,” said Moore, adding that the company in early May began taking the T680 on a tour to 100 of its U.S. and Canadian dealers.

Asked at press conference about the growing use of natural gas in trucking, Moore said customers were looking for return on investment from higher-cost natural-gas-equipped trucks and engines.

“I think a great deal of it is education right now,” said Preston Feight, Kenworth’s assistant general manager for sales and marketing.

He said customers were looking at models “based on hours of service and how that [rule] shakes out.”

Prior to the ride-and-drive event, Kenworth presented its first K370 cabover Class 7 to Coca-Cola Refreshments in Bellevue, Wash. (5-21, p. 4).

That medium-duty line, introduced this year, includes the Class 6 K270 model. Company officials said the hybrid T370, a Class 7 conventional model, improves fuel economy by about 30%.