Iveco adopts new focus to power ahead

By: Matt Wood


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Iveco Australia has made it clear it’s back on track and it means business.

 

The last decade hasn’t been kind to the Italian-owned Australian truck builder, Iveco.

In the early noughties Iveco had a significant presence in the heavy duty truck landscape. The brand featured in several national fleets and had a platform and driveline for all occasions.

However, lack of management stability and accountability, as well as the explosive legacy of the first Cursor engines to appear in this country more 10 years ago, has seen these traditional bread and butter markets dwindle for the Dandenong-based manufacturer.

The tough yet basic vocational Acco and the Daily van has for the most part kept the wheels of Iveco Australia turning in recent years.

A different company with a different product focus is now emerging. We recently headed to Norwell Park Raceway on the Gold Coast to sample a cross section of Iveco’s current range of vehicles and chat to current management about the future of Iveco in Australia and its place within the giant CNH Group.

Head of corporate and external affairs for CNH Industrial Australia and New Zealand Ron Grasso says Iveco has and will continue to change.

"It’s currently an evolutionary phase for Iveco in Australia," he says.

Iveco found a place within the CNH fold back in late 2013. CNH Industrial also owns iconic agricultural brands like Case and New Holland as well as specialised vehicle builders such as Magirus and Astra. The former is a specialist fire and emergency body builder, the latter an off-road military and mining marque.  

Both Magirus and Astra give a clear signal to where Iveco’s evolution is currently headed.

Rather than throw all its energies into trying to regain a significant presence in the high profile heavy duty fleet market, Iveco appears to be moving toward a multi-pronged approach that will see the brand also tackle specialised vehicle roles such as fire, ambulance, off-road market.

Some large tenders are ripe for the taking and the Iveco team appears determined to get on board.

The launch of the new Daily platform last year saw the addition of a massive 20 cubic metre model to the range as well as two new power plants. The largest twin turbo variant put out a very handy 205hp.

The rugged and ready 4x4 variant will catch up to the rest of the range with a Euro 6 update mid-2016. And a ready to work three-way cab chassis tipper is also available straight from the showroom floor.

Interestingly it may just be the longevity of the vocational Acco that has helped steer much of the product focus for Iveco’s future antipodean adventures.

Demand from the waste sector, long a bastion of the box cabbed Acco, has seen the development of a locally assembled clear back of cab (CBC) 8x4 Stralis for hook lift duties.

And the Australian built Powerstar is also available with a CBC configuration.

The Astra 8x8 landed in Australia just in time to hear the gates on many mine sites slamming shut. However, the Trakker in 4x4 and 6x6 guises seem destined to tackle the fire and emergency sector amongst other rough and ready vocational roles.

The Cursor 8 powered Trakker features a full hub reduction drive and the option of either automated or manual transmissions as well as three diff locks.

We sampled a few of the vehicles on display both on and off-road. Most of the vehicles we drove were unladen and without bodies fitted. 

The Daily remains as reported at the time of release a well-priced, well-appointed, spritely light commercial vehicle. The eight-speed ZF auto option is also a boon for the Daily range.

The bulk of the heavy duty Powerstar and Stralis models at the track were all fitted with the Cursor 13 engine and Eurotronic automated manual transmission.

I did, however, take a Roadranger-equipped manual Powerstar for a short squirt. Given the performance of the Cursor/AMT package it’s hard to envision there being much demand for a gearstick behind the 13 litre.

I did manage to get behind the wheel of an Australian Stralis for the first time. While it wasn’t fully loaded, the B-double race car transport trailers behind it did give me a bit of an insight into the 13 litre cab-over.

Again the Cursor/AMT package worked well together. The 13 litre engine has a nice flat torque curve that offers smooth mid-range performance. However, the cab suspension set-up of the Stralis doesn’t feel sorted for Australian conditions.

The set-back steer axle configuration is typical of its fellow European competitors yet the sloppy cab makes for a tendency to steer the cab rather than the front wheels.

Our drive was a glimpse of where Iveco is set to head in the future. The off-road products are clearly the highlight of the range, the heady highway days of yesteryear may not be currently in the company’s sights but much of the niche product on offer appears to have the goods.     

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