Plenty of speculation has centred on the Bloomberg report that Navistar is exploring the possibility of selling its Brazilian-based MWM engine manufacturing operation. It is worth noting that MWM International Motores was bought by Navistar from Deutz as recently as 2005; there is no weight of tradition holding back any disposal plans.
Who might buy the MWM business? It’s reasonable to believe that Volkswagen and Cummins would both be in the frame. MWM is an important supplier of light and mid-range diesel engines for Brazilian-built VW trucks. The optional power units listed by VW for its tall-cabbed Constellation range of chassis include four-cylinder 4.8-litre and six-cylinder 7.2-litre MWM diesels, as well as Cummins 5.9 and 8.3-litre ISB/ISC units.
Plenty of speculation has centred on the Bloomberg report that Navistar is exploring the possibility of selling its Brazilian-based MWM engine manufacturing operation
Also listed for the heaviest Constellation chassis is the NGD 370, described as an in-house VW engine. But it is produced by MWM and in reality is an update on the 9.3 Navistar MaxxForce 9.
In the 250 to 360 horsepower bracket, MWM and Cummins compete head-on for VW Constellation business in Latin America. The branding of the NGD engine as a VW product indicates a marketing ‘closeness’ between VW and Navistar, although, as is now widely acknowledged, an ever-closer warmth in relationship between Navistar and Cummins is emerging in the wake of the US truck manufacturer’s EGR versus SCR fiasco. So the competition for Brazilian VW business could hardly be categorised as ‘cut-throat’.
Nevertheless, if MWM were to be put up for sale, Cummins would be unlikely to stand by and watch a third-party buyer threaten its own Constellation engine supply business. It would be likely to put in a bid, probably with the longer-term aim of supplanting the ageing MWM and 9.3-litre Navistar designs with its own more state-of-the-art ISB and ISC/ISL models, possibly assembled in MWM’s Santo Amaro plant.
Meanwhile, it must be remembered that about two years ago, after it gained full control of MAN, VW put the South American truck operation under the auspices of MAN, opening up the possibility of MAN 6.9, 10.5 or even 12.4-litre engines going into the Constellation. The two larger diesels produced in Nuremburg are of course the basis of Navistar’s MaxxForce 11 and 13 designs.
Is it too fanciful to ask whether Volkswagen might have its eyes on Navistar’s Huntsville, Alabama plant, where the MaxxForce 11 and 13 engines are produced?
Taking the hypotheses a step further, is it too fanciful to ask whether Volkswagen might have its eyes on Navistar’s Huntsville, Alabama plant, where the MaxxForce 11 and 13 engines are produced? The plant would need relatively little revision to turn the MaxxForce specifications back to MAN standards.
From the outside, at least, the benefits of such a move appear to be numerous. It would provide VW-MAN in Brazil with in-house engines, without detracting from the German engine plant’s capacity; and Navistar would surely welcome the cash injection. How would Cummins respond to such a move by the VW group? It would imply losing some VW-MAN business in South America, but at the same time strengthening its chances of becoming the supplier of more, if not all, engines for Navistar’s Class 8 chassis in the US.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Alan Bunting has a background in engineering, and has been writing on commercial vehicle and powertrain related topics since the 1960s. He has been an Automotive World contributor since 1996.
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