It was hard sell, software and electronics all down the line from driver to dealer to customer at Freightliner Corp.'s new product introductions in New Orleans.

The Portland, Ore.-based heavy truck maker has put what it calls practical electronics at the top of its list of features in its New Generation. (See related story, Page 2B).In the cab, the Vigil series of system monitors uses centralized microprocessors beginning with a bank of LED indicator lights to keep track of up to 14 operating conditions from air pressure, oil pressure and water temperature to optional functions like axle lock. The system is standard on all the new series trucks.

Vigil 2 is an option that provides automatic engine shutdown to prevent damage in case of low oil pressure or other conditions and to provide buffered road speed and engine speed signals for other systems. Vigil 3, available in the fall, will add an electronic road speed governor with the ability to transmit data to an on-board recorder to increase fuel economy.

Freightliner also is adding to its computer power on the customer end with a new software package called PerformancePro to help buyers in comparing component selections.

The system, which will be available to Freightliner dealers next month, takes technical data from engine, transmission and axle manufacturers and combines it with the company's own data on aerodynamics and other factors to project fuel consumption under various hauling conditions.

The new program also can project the vehicle's speed in each gear on various grades, determine the percent of grade the truck can start on, produce gear split charts and display fuel economy graphs.

PerformancePro can simulate a customer's regular route even down to road surfaces and vehicle loads to evaluate the effects on selected equipment configurations, according to the company. Results can be summarized by route segment and presented in graphs and tables or printed out in report form.

The new program interacts with Freightliner's existing SpecPro system, a computerized aid for comparing vehicle component combinations. The two can work together to calculate life cycle and operating costs down to a fraction of a cent, Freightliner says.

The company recently introduced its Fleet Assistant program to help fleets track vehicle and life cycle costs and will soon introduce a MaintenancePro system to help dealers schedule service and track parts and service costs for small fleet customers.

In addition, the company plans installation starting this fall of a new NetPro dealer communications link using leased phone lines to Freightliner headquarters. The system will be capable of communication seven days a week, 24 hours a day and will transmit data 12 times faster than current communications over ordinary phone lines, the company says.