It is fair to say International has had a chequered history in Australia for the past thirty years or so. However, this year it is all back on track with the launch of the new Prostar trucks. Back in the nineties, two brands dominated the truck market at the heavier end – Ford and International. However stability was lost back then, when the International Harvester company went into administration and then managed to trade its way out of the situation.
This left International Trucks as an independent standalone brand, which was taken over by Iveco in Australia in the 1990s. The company was still a big player in the market and models like the ubiquitous S-Line still predominated, alongside the long-lasting Acco.
Then the International brand seemed to fade away as it merged into Iveco. At the same time, the International Trucks global owner, Navistar, was concentrating on its core market in North America, a famously cyclical market.
A few years later, International was back in Australia in a deal between Iveco and Navistar. International Eagle 7900 models along with 7800s and, later, 7600s were assembled in Dandenong in Victoria and kept the brand alive for another few years.
Financial woes for Navistar in the US saw the company walk away from its overseas commitments to concentrate on simply surviving as a financially sound entity. After a number of close calls, the new Navistar came out leaner and meaner and got back into a strong position in the US market, competing on an equal footing with Freightliner, Kenworth et al.
One of the strong points in the Navistar revival was the ProStar model which has been highly successful on the US market as its aerodynamic fuel saving appealed to the US truck buyer. We saw this model appear as the Cat prime mover in Australia, over five years ago, only to fade away from the market over the following few years.
Well, now its back, this time as an International ProStar, and as part of the offering from Iveco to the Australian truck market. Existing Iveco dealers, and some others, are lining up to put examples of the new trucks in their showrooms and give the International brand a chance to re-emerge onto the Australian truck market with some presence and credibility.
It’s two years since the intention of International to return to Australia was announced with a major stand at the Brisbane Truck Show displaying both the ProStar and the iconic and eye-catching LoneStar.
The negotiating process between Navistar in Chicago and CNH, the owner of the Iveco, in Australia, was a long and involved one. Both are major global companies, who have a history of good, and not so good, deals between them. It has taken nearly two years for the stars to align, and now we have the two organisations working together to launch the new trucks in Australia.
The re-entry of International looks like being a relatively low key one. The truck models available in the first offering are a modest four in number and the number of options available to buyers are minimal.
This is clearly intended as a first step in the door, aimed at specific market segments. Once established the International Truck team will be able to look at the next stage, introducing further options and, perhaps, other models.