KCMA Corp. invited members of the trade press out to Wickenburg, Ariz., for a look at the newest updates in the Kawasaki-KCM Z7 wheel loader fleet. Kawasaki came out with its first articulated loader in Japan in 1962, and when you look at a timeline of Kawasaki wheel loaders over the years, little seemed to change in the design as the decades rolled. But that changed with the Kawasaki-KCM Z7 platform in 2012.
Some of the changes introduced in Wickenburg were driven by the era — with a focus on Tier 4 Final engines, efficiency, service and operator comfort — but other changes have been influenced by KCMA’s evolving relationship with Hitachi. The two companies formed a joint-venture relationship in 2010, but starting this October, KCMA Corp. is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi Construction Machinery. Both companies bring a perspective to the table that has made for a better overall platform, like incorporating an open-centered, load-sensing hydraulics system — common in excavators — in the new 90Z7, which provides the wheel loaders with more controlled acceleration.
As for the compact equipment, the company is really excited about the future of its 42Z7 and 45Z7 wheel loaders — the fastest growing wheel loader segment in the lineup (up 20 percent this year). These small and nimble wheel loaders feature wrap-around counterweights that lower the center of gravity, increasing stability. A universal quick-coupler allows a wide range of attachments, some interchangeable with skid steer implements. Limited slip differentials provide additional traction for applications requiring extreme traction control, and let’s not forget the bucket leveler, reliable Kubota engines and standard features like third spool hydraulics and high ground speed.
The 45Z7 also includes Eco Mode, which provides a fuel-efficient setting resulting in better fuel economy without affecting productivity, and electronically controlled HST, which stabilizes engine speeds to provide smooth acceleration and deceleration. Just don’t forget that Kawasaki pioneered the Z-Link boom design, which provides high breakout force and efficiency.
While the two machines above were not on site, I did get the opportunity to operate several larger wheeled units. The smallest machine was the 67Z7, which is a class with a lot of potential after undergoing a total redesign: the fuel-efficient engine is aided by a hydrostatic transmission (which is unique in this class) to provide outstanding power at low fuel consumption; two power modes are available to fit the application requirements; and the standard Automatic Reversing Cooling Fan keeps the radiator cleaner and the systems running cooler.
Overall, the event was an eye-opener. Expect more focus on small wheel loaders. It’s a niche machine in America right now (huge in Europe and Germany specifically), but that niche is getting bigger with cool equipment options from manufacturers like Kawasaki-KCM.