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A new player in the recreational vehicle business that promises to bring considerable clout to the table in terms of new products on the motorized side of the business – Chicago-based International Truck and Engine Corp. – made its industry debut Nov. 29 at RVIA’s 43rd Annual National RV Trade Show as the new parent company of gas and diesel chassis builder Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC.
International Truck and Engine Corp., an operating unit of Navistar International Corp. that makes commercial trucks, mid-range diesel engines, school buses and smaller diesel engines for the light truck, van and SUV markets, finalized its purchase of Union City, Ind.-based Workhorse this past fall.
And International and Workhorse executives, given a chance to address motorhome manufacturers and the trade press on the opening day of the show, didn’t waste much time in expressing their interest in building a solid position for International in the RV business, in part by aggressively pursuing the diesel Class A motorhome arena in which Workhorse’s R-series platform remains a minor player.
“They (International) produce fabulous engines for trucks,” said Workhorse President Dave Olsen of his company’s new parent. “They have just chosen not to make them available in the RV market. The coupling of International and Workhorse clearly gives them the impetus to get that done.”
Four-hundred-employee Workhorse, on the other hand, holds a majority share of the gas motorhome chassis marketplace to which it added a 25,500-pound GVWR “W25.5” rail – now the industry’s highest rated GVWR for gas-fueled motorhomes – at the Louisville Show.
Olsen said much of the additional GVWR in the W25.5 over the company’s existing 24,000-pound GVWR W24 chassis is dedicated to carrying capacity. “That is huge,” said Olsen. “A lot of times you’ve had a higher GVWR, but you chew it up with the weight of the chassis. We’ve not done that here.”
Workhorse, in addition, announced that it is expanding its partnership with GM’s Chevrolet Motor Division to market Chevy’s full lineup of Class C cutaway chassis. Workhorse’s partnership with GM will now include Class C chassis with GVWRs of 9,600 and 12,300 pounds in addition to the 14,050-pound chassis the two companies introduced at the 2004 Louisville Show. “We both agreed that we wanted the exact same relationship with the lesser GVWRs,” Olsen said.
Also at the International/Workhorse exhibit was the Warrenville, Ill., manufacturer’s brawny, eight-foot-tall RXT pickup truck featuring an extra-roomy crew cab that will be available in March optionally equipped with a fifth-wheel receiver hitch.
Olsen, in his address, said the purchase of Workhorse by International could well expand the diesel marketplace in general. “They have a particular strength in mid-range diesels – up to 300- and 350-hp – which creates an opportunity for us to launch some products that are unique and not mirroring something that already exists,” he said. “It’s really the crossover from gas to diesel (manufacturing) that makes the setup unique. We’d like to think we now are uniquely positioned to follow the market wherever it goes, and steer it a little bit as well.”
Tom Cellitti, vice president and general manager of International’s medium truck division, said that adding International diesel engines to Workhorse-engineered platforms is inevitable, although the timetable is unclear. “This is going to come over time,” Cellitti said. “It will evolve.”