NTEA offers a sneak preview

Light, midrange, and medium trucks and new engines shared the spotlight with truck equipment in Las Vegas.For some 3,500 representatives of firms that manufacture and distribute commercial trucks, truck bodies, and related equipment and accessories, "The Entertainment Capital of the World" became "The Information Capital of the World" last month.Gathered in Las Vegas for the National Truck Equipment

Light, midrange, and medium trucks and new engines shared the spotlight with truck equipment in Las Vegas.

For some 3,500 representatives of firms that manufacture and distribute commercial trucks, truck bodies, and related equipment and accessories, "The Entertainment Capital of the World" became "The Information Capital of the World" last month.

Gathered in Las Vegas for the National Truck Equipment Assn.'s (NTEA) 34th Annual Convention & Exhibition, these delegates could participate in a variety of business sessions -- how to plan for succession in a family business; how quality processes improve profits and productivity; and how to comply with vehicle-certification regulations -- and in a series of "what's new" Chassis Seminars presented by truck-chassis builders.

* Mitsubishi Fuso kicked off the Chassis Seminars by highlighting its new FG truck (12,000 lb. GVWR), currently the only medium-duty, 4-wheel-drive cabover in the U.S.

Its 5,510-lb. front axle rating -- "extremely high for a truck in its GVW class" --makes the FG especially suitable for snow-plowing. Wide use is expected in dump and landscaper work, as well as in service/utility applications. With a 238-cu.-in., 135-hp. turbocharged engine, 5-speed manual transmission, and 2-speed (high/low) transfer case, the FG has a maximum speed of about 40 mph in low, providing lots of pull and gradeability.

An automatic transmission for the FG is under development. And while the truck's frame is already suitable for a crew cab, that configuration is not yet available in the U.S.

Antilock braking will be available on Mitsubishi Fuso FK (Class 6) and FM (Class 7) models starting in May or June, and on Class 3, 4, and 5 vehicles in the next model year.

* Navistar announced that it had recently broken ground for a 50,000-sq.-ft. expansion of its engineering facilities in Ft. Wayne with an eye toward development of its "Next Generation Vehicle," which will go into production in 2001.

More immediate, International midrange electronic I-6 and V8 engines (530E, DT 466E, and T 444E) now feature a single-box controller with twin Pentium microprocessors that provides far more vehicle control functions and better emissions control. Also, Navistar will be offering factory-installed Allison automatics in its 4000 Series 4x4 and 6x6 trucks by the end of 1998.

* Ford provided a hands-on preview of its 1999 Super Duty F-Series units with an exhibit that included Super Duty F-550, F-350, and F-250 models. In the medium-duty area, Ford has decided that "we can't be all things to all people." One result is the 1999 F-800, which will be available in only two GVWRs, 26,000 and 33,000 lb., and with four engine/transmission combinations based on the Cummins ISB electronic diesel. The F-800 went into production last month in Mexico City.

Market concentration has also led Ford to discontinue its gasoline engine and, at least for now, its gasoline-engine-based LPG engine.

Another Ford in your future? Watch for an all-new medium truck next year featuring those roomy cabs found on 1999 Super Duty F-Series.

* Dodge Trucks, sticking to its policy of not discussing future models, emphasized improvements incorporated in the latest Ram vehicles and the benefits offered in the 19981/2 models by the 24-valve version of the Cummins B5.9 turbo electronic diesel, with its improved coolant and air flow, new electronic fuel system, and wider torque range. The engine meets all EPA and CARB emissions regulations without EGR or catalyst.

* GMC/Chevy Trucks previewed the new GMT 800 full-size pickup, which will be available in the 1999 model year in the 1500 and 2500 series (1/2 ton and 3/4 ton; GVWs from 6,100 to 8,600 lb.), inregular and extended-cab versions. In addition to 4-wheel disc brakes, it features suspensions tuned for specific applications, a 23% stiffer and lighter frame, and availability of three additional Vortec V8 engines in ratings from 255 to 300 hp. A 1-ton version of the GMT 800 will roll out in 2001.

(For more news from the NTEA Exhibition, see Dateline News.)

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