A completely new truck range doesn’t come around very often. For the truck manufacturer, they are a one in twenty year event. Since it’s introduction back in 1996, the Actros has had a chequered career in Australia, gaining a foothold here and there, but not performing as well as other European competitor trucks.
With the introduction of the global heavy duty engine platform by Daimler Trucks, the whole tradition of engine design for the Mercedes Benz slice of the group’s trucks has seen a radical change. V6 and V8 engine configurations had seen the company through many years of truck production, but the global organisation decided the in-line straight six was the way to go for a single engine capable of performing in Europe, North America and Japan.
Once the die was cast and the six cylinder engine became the norm, the development of the basic engine block used input from around the world. Once the principles had been established, the individual marketing zones took this basic technology and then adapted it to their local markets.
The first iteration of this engine appeared in the Detroit Diesel DD13 and DD15, some time ago. A version of the 13 litre has been powering Fuso heavies in Japan for a few years. Then the engine made its debut in Europe in the completely new Actros in 2013 in Europe.
The Mercedes Benz organisation here in Australia was then faced with a choice in exactly how the models to be introduced onto the market would be developed. The choice was between an approach which had not yielded particularly spectacular results in the past or a new more comprehensive development program.
One of the factors affecting the decision to spend big, with a comprehensive long term evaluation program, would have been market analysis showing the cabover market pivoting over towards the Europeans. If Europeans were getting a bigger piece of the pie, Mercedes Benz can expect its slice has the potential to grow.
In the past, Benz models, designed specifically for the European market, were exactly that very European and only adapted in a small way to other markets. Long periods of strong growth in truck sales meant the ability to sell trucks outside Europe was a bonus, but not the core business.
The GFC changed all of that. Big corporates like Daimler were faced with a situation where the all of the brands’ home markets were down and stayed down for some time. Then other markets which weren’t as depressed and still looking for new trucks became a vital part of the truck manufacturer’s portfolio.
It was in this atmosphere at Mercedes Benz HQ in Stuttgart, which the Australian arm of the brand came up with an ambitious plan to run a comprehensive testing and evaluation program. This would give Benz an opportunity to trial the trucks and make major adjustments to the design and options to tailor the new trucks to fit, much more precisely than in the past, the exacting requirements of the Australian trucking industry.
This is how we come to the situation as it stands today, with a group of models specified precisely at the sweet spots in the trucking industry. The engines, 16, 13 and 11 litre models, are set up with the kind or power and torque rating we are looking for and coupled with the array of new technology which comes with the latest Actros design.
With a 16 litre engine rated at 560 hp and 630 hp, Benz finally have a potential serious player in the B-double prime mover market. The 13 litre with its ratings including 510 and 530 hp sits neatly in the single trailer applications with a B-double prime mover option, favoured by many of the larger fleets.