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Playing nice: PACCAR siblings take turns in product spotlight

Peterbilt follows Kenworth in revealing new medium-duty truck lineup

Additional cupholders are an option in new Peterbilt medium-duty truck. (Photo: Peterbilt)

The Peterbilt and Kenworth divisions of PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR) share many of the same underlying products. But they practice great courtesy in steering clear of each other when it is time to talk about them.

Kenworth revealed the first full makeover of its Class 5-8 work truck in three decades on Monday. The brand invited media to Phoenix a few days earlier for a preview and short drives. Kenworth closed off part of Third Street downtown to film Monday afternoon’s virtual dealer reveal.

On Wednesday, Peterbilt followed with press releases of new versions of its Class 5-8 medium duties. Of course, there was no mention of its sister brand. But the biggest changes — a wider and taller cab, a 7-inch customizable digital dash, and a new eight-speed transmission — are common between the two.

Peterbilt pointed to optional additional cupholders and underseat storage that Kenworth didn’t emphasize. 

Playing nice

In February, Peterbilt took the lead in introducing an updated Model 579 Class 8 flagship. Kenworth followed with a lower-key public reveal of its T680 over-the-road model. It invited a few reporters to Washington state for a look that led to trade media stories.

Similar coordination is the rule for Volvo Group brands Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) and Mack Trucks. Depending on the subject, the two make simultaneous announcements. Or they can put months between, such as with steering technology that VTNA debuted in September 2019 and Mack added only recently.

Multiple brands sharing the same underpinnings are common in the automobile industry, too. The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks once were so similar that a brand emblem was mistakenly affixed to the wrong truck at the factory. Today, the brand positioning and sheet metal differs so much that a mistake would be extremely unlikely. 

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) no longer needs to worry about having too much in common with Mercury. Ford mothballed the slightly premium brand in 2010. 

Knurled grab handles

Kenworth and Peterbilt speak to many of the same customers. Brand preference matters, but at the end of the day, whether Kenworth or Peterbilt makes a sale, the proceeds go to the PACCAR top and bottom line.

So when Peterbilt talks about knurled grab handles, it is safe to assume the manufacturing process of rolling straight, angled or crossed lines into the material happens at Kenworth plants, too.

“The medium duty segment is integral to Peterbilt’s business and we have seen great gains in market share since the launch of our first medium duty truck back in 1995,” Jason Skoog, Peterbilt general manager and PACCAR vice president, said in a press release.

Like Kenworth, Peterbilt is pursuing greater middle- and last-mile business with the Model 535 Class 5 truck and the Model 536 Class 6 model. Both brands emphasized growing lease and rental of the lighter trucks, typically box trucks or stake beds affixed to the chassis by body builders Both brands funnel customers to the captive PacLease group.  

Peterbilt’s Model 537 and Model 548 are designed for the Class 7/8 segment where water, utility boom trucks and specialty models like concrete mixers tend to be ordered.

Deliveries of the new models begin in July, Peterbilt said.

Kenworth overhauls medium-duty truck lineup for first time in 30 years

Peterbilt reveals major redesign of flagship Class 8 Model 579

Kenworth T680 refresh focuses on aerodynamics and digital dash

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.