“The process for introducing the new Cascadia model started prior to my time at Freightliner,” says Stephen Downes, Freightliner Australia Director. “We wanted the hamburger with the lot. When you’re looking at a project like that, you have to predict what the market wants. You can argue we can learn from the Europeans and North Americans on some things, but a couple of things we thought were critical, was the safety systems. No-one would go anywhere near AMTs in the past. The same thing will happen with safety systems.
“The other thing which really interested me was the connectivity and the telematics. Through the eyes of the customers, the operating environment is competitive. As margins get squeezed, driver shortages and the rest, the operators are looking for ways to improve operating efficiency. To do that they need access to good quality data.
“Some operators have an insatiable thirst for data, and some are starting to work towards it. Having the ability to pull down useful information and be able to provide that to the customer is important. It turns the relationship into a real partnership with the customer.”
These electronics also mean the truck will have the capability to be optioned with the latest in safety technologies, either fitted as standard or available as an optional extra.This increased level of on board electronics means the Australian arm of the Freightliner business will be able to capitalise on the latest technologies as they are released across the global Daimler truck range. Current Freightliner ,models miss out on some innovations as their electronic architecture cannot support them.
The safety systems options will be assessed during the evaluation program, deciding which will come as standard and which will be options. Over time this technology has reduced in price suggesting quite a few systems will be included as standard. They are fitted down the production line, so it’s simply a matter of ticking the box on the order.
For some operators, safety systems are specified by their customers. For others, who don’t have to have it there are considerations like the COR changes to drive choosing the safety options.
“By starting the testing process early here, it has the secondary advantage of getting some of our network familiar with the product before it goes on sale here,” says Stephen. “You get a real head start, not only from a product point of view, but also a servicing point of view.”
Whether to go fully down the Detroit track or retain an option to have Cummins engines also on offer is something which the testing process should decide. From Freightliner’s point of view they would prefer to offer just the in-house engine and are hoping the fuel figures, they can demonstrate, will attract enough customers to reduce the need for a Cummins option.
Talking to the Daimler executives at the recent unveiling it is clear the company is invigorated following the success of the release of the latest Mercedes Benz models and are hoping to get a corresponding lift in the fortunes of the flagging Freightliner brand at the point where the Argosy is phased out, also in early 2020.
“We should be able to do more with what we have today,” admits Daniel Whitehead, Daimler Trucks President and CEO in Australia, when questioned about Freightliner’s falling market share in recent years. “Our expectation with the new product is big. You look at what has been achieved on the Mercedes Benz side, two or three fold of what it was and we expect at least the same result from Cascadia. If we have the world’s best bonneted truck, it’s pretty hard to aim lower than first.
“What Cascadia represents for Freightliner is a once in a generation opportunity and a once in a generation product cycle. It started five years ago and now we are starting the engineering and test program, which is an important part of it. The product alone, as good as it is, won’t get us to where we want to go. We have to wrap it with everything else brilliant around it as well.”