Charlatte Of America Unplugged

Charlatte of America, well-known for a line of battery-powered baggage tractors, belt loaders, utility vehicles, lav/water trucks, tow tractors and pushbacks, is pulling the plug on its latest vehicle.

The CT5G Baggage Tractor will get its power from either a tank of gasoline or diesel.

“We’ve been very successful with selling our electric vehicles,” says Rob Lamb, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. “At the same time the pie for electric vehicles in the Americas is just not big enough.”

When Lamb says “the Americas,” he’s referring to a market that goes from Canada to Latin America. And when he says the company’s been successful, he means it. Lamb figures Charlatte of America has 80 percent of the electric baggage tractor market within that expanse of space.

“But that drives about 300 vehicles a year,” he adds.

To diversify, Charlatte of America’s newest vehicle will initially come with a choice of two gas engines.

“It’s in the paint booth right now,” Lamb told us when we talked with him in late September. The CT5G can come with a Ford four-cylinder, 2.5-liter engine or a four-cylinder, 2.8-liter engine from Zenith Power Products LLC.

Zenith’s Bristol, VA, location isn’t far from Lamb’s facility in Bluefield, VA. The industrial engine maker has recently done business with logistic companies to repower their GSE with the same engine going in the CT5G. All Zenith engines also currently meet California Air Resources Board and EPA requirements.

Speaking of requirements, the new tractor will also come with a Deutz diesel engine.

“We’re still waiting to hear more about Tier 4, and specifically, the cost of going from Tier 3 to Tier 4,” Lamb adds.

The new vehicle will have a Paillard axle up front and an AxleTech in back.

The new vehicle resembles the company’s CT5E, an electric cargo tractor introduced in 2011.

“It has the same body style so it does have some lines to it,” Lamb adds. “It doesn’t look like an antique or generic-looking version of a baggage tractor.”

The company’s hardly throwing in the towel on the electric market.

“It’s not that customers don’t want to go with electric equipment,” he says.

Many times, however, his customers have to match the same pace as the airport does in making the necessary infrastructure improvements to allow for electric GSE.

“The beauty of a gas or diesel vehicle is that when the flat truck comes with a delivery, the new vehicles can immediately be put into service,” Lamb says.

This isn’t the first time, Charlatte of America has unplugged itself. Lamb, who joined the company in 2005, says the earlier attempt was about a decade ago.

“But it wasn’t marketed right or built to the right spec,” Lamb says. “And around that time, plenty of electric orders were coming in so the product was shelved.”

Meanwhile, Charlatte’s French manufacturing plant has also long sold the diesel-powered TD 225 tractor. Lamb says the company has had tremendous success selling the TD 225 — overseas, that is. He adds the price would be an issue on this side of the Atlantic and, besides, the vehicle does not have the drawing power U.S. airlines require.

While the American-made CT5G is an entirely new vehicle designed with Lamb’s territory in mind, he did add that he would also consider exporting this to Europe as long as it didn’t cannibalize sales of TD 225.

Until then, he’ll be glad to see how “the Americas” shake out.

“Plenty of gas and diesel GSE manufacturers have introduced electric models to come after our market,” Lamb says. “Now I have the opportunity to go after theirs.”