Navistar is providing the executive leadership for this year’s SAE Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress (ComVEC), taking place in Rosemont, IL, on Oct. 2-3. The event’s theme is “Total Vehicle Integration: Engineering the Next Vehicle Revolution,” a topic well-suited to this year’s Executive Chairman, Ramin Younessi, Group Vice President, Product Development, Navistar. Younessi is in charge of all global product development (engineering, product planning, and quality) as well as the purchasing department. He recently spoke with Assistant Editor Ryan Gehm on how the Congress is shaping up and on the company’s future product plans incorporating the next-generation ICT+ (in-cylinder technology plus) system, which adds urea-based aftertreatment to its EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) technology.
How will this year’s ComVEC be different from those in years past?
One thing is we listened to the SAE and the results of the survey from the 2011 and 2010 ComVEC events, and one of the feedbacks was that we should have more fun stuff: more vehicles on display as well as more suppliers bringing in good stuff. So the plan is, we’re going to have a whole lot more vehicles on display at the event, indoors, including things like historical engines and vehicles and commercial-vehicle equipment. So that will be one thing that’s different; there will be more displays so more people can walk around and see and touch stuff. Also, I think for the first time in the ComVEC history, we are…using video and social media to market the participants.
What value do you see this show providing engineers, and young engineers in particular?
Obviously, it’s all about networking and meeting your colleagues, so I think it’s a perfect opportunity for the engineers to discuss their experiences with each other. It’s the only forum where the competitors get together and actually talk in an open forum; you can learn about new technologies, better understanding what is needed to continue for us to drive the industry forward. It’s also a great opportunity for the engineers to network with each other as well as get involved at a higher level by answering the call for technical papers, presentations, and other forms of engagement. In our case, we’re going to have a lot of newer engineers to the industry [in attendance], because we have hired close to 1000 newer engineers in the last year, so now this is their first event as an automotive or a truck or a diesel engineer. They get to see a whole lot of stuff that they have not experienced before. And we’re also hosting some of the local universities, so you’ll have university students that are in the engineering programs. Hopefully, they’ll grow up to become automotive engineers and follow our footsteps in the business.
So you are encouraging your new hires to attend the show as an initiation of sorts?
Absolutely, we are. For example, the midyear event we have with the ComVEC, [we] recruited maybe a dozen or half a dozen of the new engineers, not just with the company. These are the early-career folks that have only one or two years of experience. So they came, they were the hosts, they did the tours...These people were able to network with senior people in the industry thanks to the SAE. And I’m hoping we do more of that at this event. My experience is that sometimes the first time the young engineers are seeing the leadership, it’s at an event like this. They see, “Oh, that’s the VP of Engineering for John Deere,” for example.
What are the main issues to be discussed at this year’s event?
We wanted to address [key topics] from both the customer side and from a technology side—as an OEM, as well as for the supplier. One item is integration relative to customer needs. Basically, how do you integrate a vehicle or an engine in a better way than the years past, to address customers’ needs, whether it’s reliability, fuel economy, or performance. The second topic is the integrated vehicle evolution. That panel is going to get into: what does it mean for a vehicle to be integrated and how much engineering does it take to make that happen? I think it will be an eye-opener for [attendees]. The third one is telematics. Telematics is a big, big deal, and it has been for a while. We’re going to get into telematics and data management and then using that data, both at the OEM level as well as at the supplier level. The Blue Ribbon Panel is on 24 V. Most of the rest of the world, in the commercial vehicles, trucks, buses, and engines, are [employing] 24 V; North America is one of the last places at 12 V. From a product perspective, it can have some advantages. And finally, gaining value from data streams, that’s the fifth topic we’re going to get into. I think these panels will be a highlight of the event.
What are some of the mutual challenges facing the on- and off-highway industries, and how does ComVEC help to address them?
Customer satisfaction obviously drives businesses; it drives us and drives our product development activities. So quality is a major focus for the on-highway and the off-highway industry. Our customers drive the vehicles for hundreds of thousands of miles—I’m being truck-centric for a minute. And when the vehicle is down, they can’t do their job. Same goes for the guys in the bus [market] and on the diesel or the engine side and the off-highway. So ComVEC will address these quality standards by outlining the benefits of an integrated engineering approach. The vehicles, the engines, they have gotten so complicated to meet the emission standards, to meet the safety standards, with a high level of electronics, and with that electronics and sophistication has come a lot of complexity. Our objective is to obviously make sure that sophistication is a benefit back to the customer in terms of product quality and other positive product attributes. So, that’s a topic we’re going to cover as well.
What is the dynamic between Navistar’s Truck and Defense groups? Any collaboration or technology sharing that takes place between the two?
Absolutely. We have one product-development organization at Navistar, and that group focuses on designing and developing engines that meet the market’s needs, emissions needs, and performance needs. They also develop the vehicles for the different segments. For example, we have a Bus Development Group, we have the North American Truck Group, the Global Truck Group, and of course the Defense Group. So the engineers are fully integrated, and they work on vehicle programs and powertrain programs. We have been able to leverage that know-how and the scale on the commercial side to develop products that are really cost-effective [and with quicker development cycles] on the defense side. Looking from the defense back to the commercial side, because of the discipline and the program management requirements that the defense demands—for example, the U.S. military demands—we have been able to bring a lot of that discipline back to the commercial programs and become more thorough and more analytical about commercial-vehicle program development. So basically our engineers, they work side by side on the programs. Our track record working in this collaborative way has proven successful in the military market, and it has helped us fast-track some commercial programs. For example, the MaxxPro family of [mine resistant ambush protected] trucks are based on the commercial vehicle models, and they leverage our 1+2+3 strategy—one chassis globally, two cab structures, and three powertrain [platforms]. That same thinking has helped us develop, for example, the TerraStar, which is a class 4-5 [medium-duty] commercial vehicle. Both sides learn from each other in a collaborative, technology-sharing way.
What about Navistar’s transition to the ICT+ engine system? How will that impact future product plans?
Our Engine Engineering Group, we offer in North America so far only engines that are what we call in-cylinder technology, or ICT; basically we have always offered engines without aftertreatment. However, outside of North America, we do offer aftertreatment, or what we call ICT+. “Plus” means plus aftertreatment. The reason we’ve always done it that way is because outside of North America, you get into issues with fuel quality, where if you have high-sulfur fuel you poison the DPF [diesel particulate filter], so you want to have an aftertreatment system that’s urea-based SCR [selective catalytic reduction]. For North America, we have now also elected to go with the same technology as we offer outside of North America. [We’re] basically taking the advanced EGR system, with the fuel controls and air management and the combustion, and then adding DEF [diesel exhaust fluid] based aftertreatment. What this will do for us is help us meet the greenhouse gas standards for 2017 and beyond, and it also helps us to basically standardize aftertreatment globally so we don’t have one emissions solution for North America and a different emissions solution for outside of North America; that will help us with getting the scale worldwide, and it will help us with the cost. So it’s basically…technology we had in the past, we just chose not to use it in North America, specifically U.S./Canada, and now we’re going to use it globally.
There probably are some tweaks being made to ICT+ for North America, correct?
Absolutely. In North America, specifically U.S./Canada, we have to meet the EPA standards. Outside of North America, we have to meet the Euro standards—Euro 4, Euro 5, and Euro 6. The two emissions standards are not exactly the same; there are differences in terms of the actual emission levels and then the test procedures. So there is definitely development work required for the EPA version of the ICT+ engines, but the technology is nothing new. It’s just a matter of enabling it and packaging it and then offering it in North America. Our plans are to start offering ICT+ equipped trucks in U.S. and Canada in early 2013.