CATERPILLAR has breathed new life into its European road construction division with the purchase of Italian paver manufacturer Bitelli.
The addition of Bitelli, for an undisclosed sum, brings readymade capacity and a European dealer network.
It comes in the face of reports that Cat had been paring down paving operations in Europe, which have failed to live up to the success of its North American division, and was seriously considering its future in the region.
The new division, to be called Cat Paving Products Europe, will be headed up by Cat's Danny Davis and headquartered in the former Bitelli plant at Minerbio, Italy.
'The purchase will strengthen our European operation, ' said Cat spokesman Charles Belouin.
'Road construction is a market we are committed to and we want to grow the business. This brings us a range of products, such as asphalt pavers, particularly suited to the European market.'
Cat's paving division sales have not taken off in the European market in the same way as they have in the US. The UK is one of the struggling areas and both Cat and dealer Finning have reduced their paving teams here.
'In the US, we are very successful, with dual branding in the form of Caterpillar and BarbourGreene, ' said Mr Belouin.
The fact that Cat already has a scaled-down operation means that the addition of Bitelli with its 300strong workforce won't mean any job losses.
Cat has a single European manufacturing base for paving in Rosigny in France, whereas Bitelli has four Italian factories.
Mr Belouin said the benefits would include savings on distribution costs and expansion capacity in the Italian plants.
He added that, although Bitelli's range of 41 pavers and planers would mean some overlap with Cat's own 46-strong paving line, it was too early to say what the position on branding would be. However, there would be some dual branding to begin with in certain markets.