Reach for the Stars

Kurt Dein, Head of Western Star Trucks in Australia, is part of a family legacy whose long association with the iconic truck brand is now into its third generation.
Kurt Dein, Western Star.

A personal involvement with the Western Star commercial vehicle brand extends 20 years for Kurt Dein who is overseeing the launch of the latest Western Star X-Series.

Prime Mover: You seem to have Western Star in your DNA. How has that transpired?
Kurt Dein: My family is the third generation involved with Western Star trucks, starting with my grandfather in pre-Western Star days with the White brand, transitioning in 1983 to Western Star. My grandfather, Ross Thompson, was one of the first privately-owned Western Star dealers in Australia and ultimately had dealerships in Port Macquarie, Tamworth and Narrabri. I’ve been aligned with Western Star Trucks since the very beginning of my working career. After finishing school, I did my diesel mechanic trade on the product at the family dealership in Port Macquarie. I went into product sales in 2008 and then moved to Brisbane in 2015 to begin working for Penske, first in sales on the retail side, and then as a Regional Sales Manager on the wholesale side.

PM: Australia obviously has a high level of input into this new X- Series, particularly the 48X. How did that come about?
KD: In 2015 Western Star engineering and sales representatives from Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) came out here and I was part of that initial ‘road map’ conversation with the dealer group as well as Penske. We considered where our strengths were, and what really made a Western Star the truck it was here in Australia at the time, and what we needed to go forward into the future. During the last six years the market has changed significantly due to factors such as improved safety compliance and driver shortages, and it was important to design the X-Series to suit our market, our customers and our drivers. We also looked at the market segments we fit in and where the opportunities were.

PM: Did you look for fundamental changes?
KD: Our Western Star market in Australia absolutely pushed the engineering team in the US in terms of product development and durability, combined with the safety integration and driver ergonomics. At the X-Series launch in November, I emphasised the 4800 Constellation 26-metre, 34-pallet B-double truck released in 2006 had the set forward front axle, short bonnet, tight BBC, with high horsepower and as a conventional truck it has achieved high demand and we certainly were not going to let go of that one bit. We looked to go better and keep that renowned durability of Western Star in the new range and at the same time introduce an industry-leading advanced safety package. Also, by adding the integrated driveline with leading technology, we are future-proofing ourselves from an emissions point of view.

Western Star 48X.

PM: Is the 48X exclusive to the Australian market?
KD: In the US market, a short BBC is not a requirement as operators can add the length they want in front of the trailer pin. Our market is unique globally and it’s all about product efficiency. So DTNA partnered with us and we created a world exclusive truck for our local market. The 48X also offers the choice of either the 13-litre DD13 Gen 5 engine producing 525 horsepower and 1850 lbs.ft of torque with a 72.5t GCM, and the DD16 which produces 600 hp and 2,050 lbs.ft.

PM: What are some of the safety features of the X-Series?
KD: The Detroit Assurance electronic safety suite has features including lane guard assist, adaptive cruise control Active Brake Assist 5, side guard assist, and more. And inside the cab, there’s been a major rethink from the seating position, access into the cab, the door opening, the step treads, visibility out of the windscreen, and mirror design to the airbag solution comprising the ISRI Roll-Tek integrated driver’s seat with the curtain airbag.

PM: The 47X is available with a 9.0-litre Cummins engine. Has there been any consideration to run bigger Cummins engines in the 48X and 49X?
KD: Our business partnership with Cummins is as strong as it has ever been. We’ve currently got the L9 offering which is a GHG 21-compliant engine which suits the recently legislated local ADR 80/04 requirement. In the US, the Western Star X-Series has Cummins engines available in the bigger 12-litre and 15-litre options. Penske and Cummins are united in bringing 15-litre engines into the Australian market and we will see the Cummins here in Australia in bigger horsepower configuration, but that is years away.

PM: Are there additional X-Series models set to be available in Australia?
KD: The X-Series in Australia will comprise the 47X, 48X, and 49X models. We’ve got multiple axle configurations including 8×4 and 10×4, which we will see introduced over the coming year and will open up more segments that are real opportunities for us. This Western Star X-Series is not an American-spec truck. It is designed for our market and takes into account factors such as cooling package, chassis rails, short BBC models, and optional exhaust configurations as well as square fuel tanks. So the line-up of 47X, 48X, and 49X places Western Star exceptionally well for the future.

PM: Does the Western Star brand have enough identity and heritage of its own to differentiate from Freightliner?
KD: DTNA has played on the strengths available in its tool kit. Certainly, there’s Daimler integration and the Detroit Assurance package is a Daimler safety suite, but when you look at it, the X-Series is a significantly different truck. We considered what Western Star has meant to our local customers over the last 40 years, and the X-Series respects that while being able to attract many more customers to our brand because of the expanded segment fit. The X-Series is a Portland-built truck which is where our legacy Western Stars also went down the line. The Portland factory has received a significant investment to create the X-Series from a production point of view and from the dedicated engineering team.

PM: How has the reception to the new models been so far?
KD: Since the launch in early November, I’ve been travelling to capital cities and also to regional dealerships and all the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and that we’ve got something outstanding here. And that comes from customers, drivers, sales guys, diesel mechanics, and parts interpreters.

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