Paccar breaks ground on U.S. engine plant

Paccar Inc., parent company of Kenworth and Peterbilt, broke ground Tuesday, July 17, on its first engine plant in North America – to be located just west of Columbus, Miss., near Golden Triangle Regional Airport. The 400,000-square-foot facility, which is scheduled to be completed in 2009, will build Paccar’s planned Class 8 truck engine for on-highway and vocational applications.

For some of their medium-duty offerings, Kenworth and Peterbilt already offer only Paccar-badged engines, which are built by Cummins. But in Class 8, the truck brands will continue to offer customers a choice of engines, Paccar officials say. Today, Caterpillar and Cummins supply engines to Paccar in North America.

“This factory sends a strong signal of the strength of manufacturing in America,” said Mark Pigott, Paccar chairman and chief executive officer, at a groundbreaking ceremony that included Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and other dignitaries. Pigott also noted the similarities between Mississippi and Paccar’s home state of Washington. Both are leaders in the timber and fish industries, Pigott said, joking that Mississippi’s deep-fried catfish might be tastier than Washington’s salmon.

And both states have strong educational systems, Pigott said, noting that this factor ranked high in the company’s decision. He punctuated this point – as well as Paccar’s tradition of charitable contributions – by announcing a $2 million gift to nearby Mississippi State University’s capital campaign dedicated to the engineering school.

At a news conference following the groundbreaking, Paccar Executive Vice President Jim Cardillo noted that although Paccar will be new to the engine business in North America, “We have a long tradition of being a leader in the engine market in Europe.”

Paccar’s Columbus plant will build 12.9-liter and 9.2-liter diesel engines based on European platforms of the same displacement. Both European engines were on display at the groundbreaking ceremony. The 9.2-liter Paccar PR engine, which would be used mostly for vocational or LTL applications in North America, offers 250 to 360 horsepower and peak torque of 775 to 1,060 lb-ft and weighs 1,860 lbs. The over-the-road 12.9-liter Paccar MX offers 360 to 510 horsepower and 1,310 to 1,850 lb-ft of peak torque; that engine weighs 2,510 lbs.

The North American specs should generally be in the same range, although the upper end of horsepower on the 12.9-liter engine likely will be a bit lower, Craig Brewster, Paccar assistant vice president and leader of the engineering team for the new engines, told CCJ.

For customers who spec Paccar engines, the advantage will be that Peterbilt and Kenworth will have “the ability to have total control over the customer experience,” Brewster said: From expertise, to parts, to service, dealers will be even better positioned to provide total vehicle support. From a technical perspective, another advantage of integration will be streamlined onboard diagnostics, which become more challenging beginning in 2010, Brewster said.