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The housing downturn badly hurt the market for concrete transit mixers, whose sales have shrunk about 80% from 2007's peak of 12,000 units. 

Vendors used this year's World of Concrete to draw up new battle lines in preparation for an economic rebound.

Late last year, Terex Corp. laid off about 50 workers and mothballed its mixer plant in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where it builds front- and rear-discharge trucks. Terex's booth at the Las Vegas concrete show was about one-third its normal size. A lonely Bidwell bridge paver was the only machine on display.

"We saw that the economy was stalling," says David Rinas, director of sales for Terex Roadbuilding. "So we made a decision to take [Ft. Wayne] down for at least six to nine months." The company expects to restart production in the third or fourth quarter after extensive retooling. Its asphalt plant line in Oklahoma City is also on hold.

Terex owns about 40% of the U.S. market for front-discharge mixers; however, two new players on the scene could grab up sales while Ft. Wayne remains in hibernation.

Navistar's recently-acquired division, Continental Mixers, presented a new front-discharge mixer, shown above, which went on sale for the first time at the Las Vegas show, held Jan. 24-27. 

The truck comes with an 13-liter engine rated at up to 430 horsepower and 1,650 lb-ft or torque. It can be had in up to seven axle configurations and an 11-yard drum.

The company expects to grab up 30% of the front-discharge market, which is spotty around the U.S. Concrete contractors in such States as Indiana and Utah, for example, prefer these types of trucks, which cost at least 25% more than a conventional mixer.

"I think we get can that done in 3 years," says Steve Guillaume, Continental's vice president and general manager, speaking of market-share goals. Continental joins another company, Kimble, as a new entrant to the niche field.

Conversely, the main players for rear-discharge mixers have narrowed since Terex has temporarily exited the business. 

"Right now, it is just us and Oshkosh," Guillaume says.