HANOVER, Germany — Andreas Renschler, member of the Daimler AG board overseeing truck and bus operations, says he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the industry’s prospects, even in light of lingering economic concerns in many parts of the world.
Speaking at the International Motor Show in Hanover, Germany, Renschler said strong sales in Northern Europe are helping offset decreased volumes in the troubled southern part of the continent. He highlighted North America as a bright spot.
“Demand for trucks and vans in North America, on the other hand, is expected to increase between 10-20% in 2012,” Renschler said. “Daimler Trucks was actually able to outperform this forecast by achieving a sales increase of 27% in the NAFTA region through August – possibly a new record.”
The Japanese truck and bus market is expected to grow by 20% this year while the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) remain relatively strong. China represents the largest truck market in the world while India is challenging the US for the second spot.
“In short, the sun isn’t exactly shining everywhere, but the overall outlook is solid,” Renschler said.
Through the first eight months of 2012, Daimler has increased its truck sales globally by 20% compared to the same period in 2011.
“Our market share statistics are unambiguous, and clearly show that whether you’re talking about trucks, buses or vans, we’ve been able to significantly expand our position in many markets since the beginning of the year,” Renschler said.
The long-term picture looks rosy for Daimler and other truck manufacturers.
“Although markets may be volatile today, all experts who look beyond the short-term agree that our sector is and will remain a growth sector,” Renschler said. “Gross domestic product worldwide is expected to rise by around 30% between now and 2020. We all know that when the economy grows, the demand for transport services increases. As a result, global demand for medium- and heavy-duty trucks alone will expand by around 50% over the next 10 years.”
Daimler continues to focus on globalization, as evidenced by its mantra: “As global as possible, as regional as necessary.”
“This has been our approach for years and our strategy is increasingly paying off,” Renschler said.
Turning his attention to products, Renschler said Daimler’s Fuso Canter Eco Hybrid (not currently available in North America) is the first commercial hybrid to provide a reasonable payback to customers.
“Customers will be able to recoup the additional cost for the new Canter Eco Hybrid in three to four years,” Renschler said. The hybrid was launched in Japan in May and will soon be deployed in Europe. Renschler said customers are achieving fuel savings of up to 23%.
Still, Renschler said, “it’s clear that for the foreseeable future, the combustion engine is and will remain the most important lever when it comes to ensuring that transportation and distribution remain as clean and efficient as possible.”
Renschler said Daimler was the first OEM to offer a Euro VI-compliant truck, referring to new emissions standards (equivalent to EPA2010) slated to take effect in 2014. The Euro VI standard will see exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) added to selective catalytic reduction (SCR), which the North American experience suggests would result in some fuel economy degradation. But Renschler said “The Euro VI engine in the new Actros consumes around 4.5% less fuel than its Euro V predecessor.”
As Daimler goes forward with broadening its product portfolio, Renschler said the emphasis will always be on offering the lowest total cost of ownership for truck buyers. This has been a goal for Daimler dating back to 1905 when the company created a profitability calculator that compared the costs of operating a truck against that of using a horse-drawn cart.
“The result: With an operating cost of just under 10 pfennigs per ton-kilometre, our truck was the prime choice even at that time,” he said.