At just under 26,000 pounds, the new CXT is one big, honkin' truck
by Larry Avila
It stands 9 feet high, weighs more than a full-grown African elephant and can be found parked outside the business run by John Koonce.
When Koonce learned that someone would be building a truck larger than a Hummer H2, he wanted to be the first in line to buy it.
"The size of it," he said of the appeal of the International CXT, the world's largest production pickup. CXT stands for commercial extreme truck.
The model was created by Warrenville-based International Truck and Engine Corp. A variation of it, the RXT (recreational extreme truck), will be unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show, which opens today.
"It certainly gets people's attention," said Koonce, owner of Central Auto Body in Roselle. He uses his truck mostly for business — and when he needs to do some heavy towing.
Koonce's colorfully decorated monster pickup truck sports his company logo and other graphic elements.
"Basically, it is a rolling piece of advertising," he said. "People have stopped by the shop and asked me if they can take a look inside."
He's even been asked to display his CXT at car shows.
"It's really for the business," he said. "People certainly talk about it."
Koonce and other commercial businesses are the target market for International, though the longtime truck maker won't discourage any potential customers from making a purchase.
"There's a lot of people out there that wanted something different," said Bill Sixsmith, director of vehicle center marketing for the severe-service segment at International. "Commercial businesses want something that performs as well as it promotes. It's a niche for someone who's in landscaping or autobody repair or a bricklayer that needs to haul equipment."
International does not compare its 25,999-pound CXT to any sport utility vehicle on the road today.
"CXT has a commercial truck pedigree," Sixsmith said. "We're not aiming for the SUV market. We've created a whole new niche. It's not for someone to buy groceries in, but it is for someone who wants something different."
International designed the CXT so that it wouldn't be necessary to have a commercial license to drive it. Its gross vehicle weight rating barely comes in under the 26,000-pound limit, when commercial licenses are required.
The CXT also comes with automatic transmission as a standard feature.
Koonce said his daughter, who recently obtained her learner's permit, has driven his CXT.
"If she can drive that, she can drive anything," he said.
But it's unlikely a typical 16-year-old will be dropping by to purchase a CXT. The base price is about $90,000; throw in features like a drop-down DVD player, leather interior and premium stereo system, and the price can reach $120,000 or more.
For celebrities, however, it's all about the bling. Famous CXT owners include actor Ashton Kutcher and Jalen Rose, the former Chicago Bulls guard who now plays for the Toronto Raptors.
Sixsmith admits that International is reaping the benefits the CXT has brought to the company.
"We're certainly getting recognition because of the celebrities," he said. "It's given our brand a higher profile in the marketplace. Though we've been around for a 100 years, some people are just learning about us for the first time."
International was expecting to build 50 to 60 CXTs when the truck was introduced last fall. By the end of 2004, the company had received 200 orders. International has not released any forecasts for 2005.
But don't expect the CXT to become as common around Naperville as the SUV, a local business owner says.
"One thing people don't realize is that the bigger the truck, the fewer the streets you'll be able to drive on," said John Puscheck, co-owner of Prager Moving and Storage Co. in Naperville. "Most streets weren't made to handle daily truck traffic, so it really seems impractical to have something like that as a daily driver."
City of Naperville ordinances say vehicles in excess of 8,000 pounds, gross or registered weight, are restricted to designated truck routes. Vehicles exempt from this include those owned and operated by government agencies and private utilities; buses; vehicles engaged in the collection and removal of garbage and refuse; snow-removal vehicles; vehicles registered and used as recreational vehicles; tow trucks; and owner-operated vehicles, but only to the extent that the vehicle is operated to and from the closest point on the nearest truck route.
Puscheck said he's considering buying a car once the lease is up on his sport utility vehicle.
"I want something that's fun to drive," he said. "I really don't know too many businesses or people who would want to spend $90,000 on a truck like that."