Freightliner LLC, a DaimlerChrysler AG unit, announced that its acquisition of 100% of the outstanding stock of Western Star Trucks Holdings closed today. Freightliner acquired the company for a purchase price of U.S.$453 million.

Western Star will be integrated into Freightliner's vocational truck unit, Sterling Truck Corporation. The Western Star brand will continue as a separate product line in the market, and the two companies' dealer networks will be optimally configured throughout North America to offer customers expanded service and support capabilities.

Freightliner also gains one of the leading heavy transit bus manufacturers in North America, Orion Bus Industries. The Orion products and brand name will continue in the market and Freightliner's specialized vehicles group, which includes Thomas Built Buses, American LaFrance and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp, will support the company.

"The combined organization is highly focused and will have no equal in its ability to support the unique needs of the vocational and owner-operator customer," said Freightliner President Jim Hebe.

"The Western Star and Orion brands and products are tremendous complements to Freightliner LLC's truck and bus product offering," Hebe added. "We offer customers not only the most comprehensive truck and bus product solutions, but also the most extensive distribution and service network throughout North America."

The addition of the range of Western Star trucks fulfills Freightliner's strategy to offer a full product line to owner-operators as well as further expand the company's vocational truck offering. Adding Orion Bus products to Freightliner's current bus offering supports Freightliner and its DaimlerChrysler parent company's strategy to become North America's largest full line bus manufacturer. Freightliner, through its Thomas Built Buses and Orion units, manufactures a comprehensive line of both school, commercial and transit buses.

"We intend to capitalize on synergies in product design, manufacturing, purchasing, aftermarket support, and our dealer networks," Hebe added. "We expect this to not only strengthen each of our truck and bus units, but more importantly, it will enable us to respond to customers' needs with unmatched technical, manufacturing, service, and financial resources."

Management Team Takes Shape

John Merrifield will expand his responsibilities as the senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sterling to combined sales and marketing for the Sterling and Western Star brands. Manufacturing and engineering operations of Western Star will be directed by Roger Nielsen, General Manager of Operations.

Merrifield has led the development and growth of Sterling Truck Corporation since 1997 when Freightliner acquired the rights to Ford Motor Company's heavy truck product line.

Since that time, Sterling has established a strong presence in the medium- and heavy-duty vocational truck segments, particularly in the day cab truck segments, such as construction, pick-up and delivery, LTL and regional distribution.

Nielsen, a 15-year Freightliner veteran, has led the integration effort to bring Western Star into the Freightliner family.

A Clear Leader in Commercial Vehicles

"We're anxious to build on the strengths of our companies and get underway with the successful integration of Western Star and Orion and their employees into the Freightliner family," Hebe added. "We have built a powerful platform for our continuing growth and dominance of the North American commercial vehicles market."

Freightliner LLC, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, produces and markets Class 3-8 vehicles under the Freightliner, Sterling, American LaFrance and Thomas Built Buses nameplates. Freightliner is a DaimlerChrysler Company, the world's leading commercial vehicle manufacturer.