Caterpillar and Navistar International are finally moving forward with their strategic alliance, which was first announced in June of last year. The two companies say they will pursue a 50/50 joint venture for global commercial truck opportunities, as well as create a Cat-branded, heavy-duty vocational truck line for North America.

Caterpillar vocational trucks for the United States, Canada and Mexico will be unveiled in late 2010 and go into full production in early 2011. The trucks will be sold and serviced exclusively by Cat dealers in North America.

Cat and Navistar also plan to manufacture and distribute cabover and conventional commercial trucks in regions outside of the United States and India, with anticipated product unveilings late in the third quarter of this year. The first possible target markets include Australia, Brazil, China, Russia, South Africa and Turkey.

The companies are currently evaluating the countries listed above to find the proper branding strategy. “Numerous factors will help make this decision, including the existing presence of the Cat and Navistar brands,” says Phil Christman, president, global truck operations, Navistar. “Based on our findings, we will decide to offer either a dual-, Cat- or Navistar-branded truck.”

A full range of powertrains options, starting with 11-, 13- and 15-liter engines, will be based on Caterpillar’s platform and manufactured by Navistar. The truck will also be available in either set-back or set-forward axle configurations, and possible transmission choices include Allison and Cat’s CX Series.

Taylor says both companies are well under way with the design process, and he believes the new truck offerings will compliment Cat’s existing line of equipment. “We’ve already completed 100 separate customer interviews on design, and we’ve seen exciting responses,” says George Taylor, director and general manager, global on-highway department, Cat.

According to Taylor, Cat and Navistar plan to focus predominately on a lightweight aluminum cab and integrate Cat components and electronics on the new North American truck to serve a variety of applications, including earthmoving, general and heavy construction, quarry, mining, refuse, logging and road construction.

“If you think about the relationship Caterpillar has had in North America with vocational customers and combine that with Navistar’s capability to build world-class trucks, there’s a lot of synergy there,” Taylor says.

Navistar’s Garland, Texas, plant – which has produced the company’s vocational product line, as well as its TranStar line – will build the new vocational truck. Pricing has not yet been set.

The question was posed awhile back, if the companies pursued a new truck line up, would the trucks be Cat yellow? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

– Barbara Cox