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THE agreement whereby Navistar International has asked Cummins Inc. to produce environmentally friendly truck engines for the company’s medium-duty trucks and school buses is only weeks old.
The circumstances that resulted in that decision are much older, measured in terms of years, and relate to a choice made by the local engine manufacturer more than a decade ago.
There is a certain irony to this turn of events that represents a major coup by Cummins Inc. and its leadership that will give the company an even larger share of this particular market.
It was 10 years ago this month that Cummins Inc. Chairman Tim Solso told shareholders that the company had emerged from one of the worst economic periods in its history and was poised for a strong rebound.
Solso based that promise for the future on earlier decisions that involved adopting new strategies. One of those strategies included a “fast tracking” of the process to produce environmentally friendly engines that would meet strict EPA standards by October 2002.
It was not a philosophy shared by others in the industry. The American Trucking Association argued that the deadline for meeting emissions standards was unrealistic and would adversely affect the industry and the environment.
The rest of the story is history, one that has seen the Columbus-based company repeatedly reap the rewards of that earlier decision to stay ahead of the competition in this particular area.
In this latest instance, Navistar, which makes engines of its own as well as various trucks and buses, will continue its efforts to build engines of the kind that will be provided by Cummins but acknowledged that the arrangement with Cummins will buy it the time needed to get there.
Navistar officials expect the arrangement to not only buy them time but reinvigorate sagging sales.
If that happens, a good share of the credit should be attributed to Cummins Inc., which brings to the table a solid reputation for producing these engines based on decisions that were made more than a decade ago.
Those decisions were considered a gamble at the time. Today it’s seen as a gamble that has paid off.
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