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Foton marks key point in 18-year history

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China’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer thinks so highly of its relationship with Cummins Inc. that more than 50 representatives traveled here to announce a new venture with the Columbus-based engine maker.

Top executives from Beigi Foton Motor Co., including the general manager, packed a room Tuesday in the Cummins Tech Center, where speakers explained the ISG diesel engine that will power heavy-duty trucks in China.

Many of the Foton employees — who traveled 6,800 miles from Beijing — snapped pictures or took cellphone videos, recording a moment they considered important in the company’s nearly 18-year history.

The feeling is mutual at Cummins.

The relationship between the companies dates back 10 years, said Rich Freeland, Cummins vice president and president of its engine business. Early discussions led to a joint venture called Beijing Foton Cummins Engine Co. Ltd. The 50-50 joint investment produces light-duty diesel engines for light commercial trucks, vans and small construction equipment in China.

“Foton is today one of our most important global partners,” said Dave Crompton, vice president and general manager of Cummins’ engine business. “They were heavily involved in the development of the engine. They are an investment partner ... and they are the first customer of this new ISG engine.”

About the partnership with Daimler

Foton reached an agreement on commercial vehicle production with Germany’s Daimler AG on Jan. 29, 2009.

The two parties created a 50-50 venture for the production of medium- and heavy-duty trucks and the development of associated technologies and services.

Foton-Daimler produces Foton’s Auman series of medium- and heavy-duty trucks and Daimler-licensed 490 horsepower Euro V Mercedes-Benz OM457 heavy-duty engines.

Foton considered Cummins a good partner for the initial joint venture and again for this new one, because Foton believes the companies have a common understanding of the truck market and have complementary strengths, Foton spokesman JingGuang Zhao said through an interpreter.

Those strengths, he said, include that Foton is the world’s largest commercial vehicle producer and Cummins is the largest independent diesel engine producer.

Foton Cummins reports that it produced more than 100,000 light-duty diesel engines last year, a record. Production began in 2009 and has increased each year.

“We’re very confident about the success of this new engine because it is viewed on the success of the light-duty engine,” Zhao said.

“It’s been wildly successful on a global basis,” Crompton said of the light-duty diesel joint venture. “It has been terrific in China, and it has been fantastic for Cummins as we’ve been pursuing growth and chasing markets around the world.”

Another reason Foton likes the partnership with Cummins is the partnership’s environmental efforts.

Foton is trying hard to reduce carbon emissions and improve the environmental future for everyone, said Wang Jinyu, Foton general manager. Cummins has been focused on meeting the most stringent emissions standards.

“As China and the U.S. governments are working together more closely to conquer the environmental challenge ... the cooperation between Cummins and Foton sets an example of how the businesses can work together to address the issue,” Zhao said.

Foton sees Cummins’ expertise as an example of how it can get even better in the automotive industry, and it wants to preserve that relationship, Wang said.

“We are honored to be a partner working with Cummins and are sure (Foton and Cummins) will be able to increase our competitive advantage in the future,” Wang said.

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