It was big news, though the manufacturer saved it until a day after all of the media had come, ogled the new cars, and left.
By some measures, though, it was the biggest debut at the Chicago Auto Show.
It was the new Navistar LoneStar.
Navistar, which is the current moniker for a brand that was known originally as the International (and originally manufactured by International Harvester Corporation – hence, the old-time slang for the brand as the “binder), is doing something quite remarkable with the new LoneStar.
Inside, whether in the interior or the internals, the truck is advanced in every way.
Outside, it’s retro.
The LoneStar’s interior was inspired by those of expensive motor homes. The sleeper cab includes swivel seats for both driver and passenger, wood flooring, airline style cabinetry, a pull-down bed that converts to a curved couch, a desk, laptop ports, and a refrigerator. Gauges are set in an instrument panel trimmed either with rosewood or titanium-style trim. Bluetooth is standard, as is a Monsoon audio system. Should the customer want more, there are 42 options available, including alloy wheels and a variety of lighting choices.
The running gear includes anti-lock brakes and traction control. The aerodynamic design of the truck improves fuel economy by 5% to 15%, compared to ordinary conventional-style trucks (i.e., the ones with hoods). To put that in perspective, depending on tank capacity, it can cost as much as $1,000 to fill the tanks on a semi tractor.)
But, outside, Navistar took the D-Series International trucks from the late 1930’s as its design inspiration and came up with a distinctive look that features a V-shaped sloped hood, and distinctive grill with an open square pattern.
From idea to introduction, Navistar brought the LoneStar out in a mere 24 months, going directly from computer modeling and clay models to production, without building prototypes.
The LoneStar hits the market just as truck makers are hoping to avoid a second year of slumping sales. New federal emissions rules became effective in 2007. Truck buyers, however, distrusted the reliability of trucks meeting the new rules and, consequently, many companies accelerated replacement schedules to purchase 2006 models, reducing demand for new trucks in 2007. In the meantime, a slump in the overall economy is leading many experts to predict soft sales in the 2008 truck market, as well.
Navistar, however, is expecting to do well with the new LoneStar, which it views as appealing to both owner-operators and fleet buyers.
So, should you pass a new LoneStar on the highway, and the driver happens to look down at you, well . . .
Considering all the luxury surrounding him,
unless you’re driving a Lexus, there’s a reason he’s looking down.