Daimler leaders discuss global, North American truck markets

HANNOVER, Germany — Meeting with the truck press in recent years has been easy for Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). He has guided the truck manufacturer to a comfortable position well above all other OEMs in terms of market share and has executed well on an ambitious growth strategy.

This year, with DTNA’s share of the Classes 6-8 market down about 2.9% year-over-year through June, Daum didn’t make excuses or shy away from journalists’ questions. He met with North American trade press editors at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover, Germany and said even though Daimler is still the leader in the North American market, he’s not happy about the small step back.

“If there hadn’t been 2013, we’d all celebrate the 2014 numbers,” Daum said, pointing out last year was DTNA’s best ever in terms of market share. “2013 was our record, so this has been our second best year, so it’s not too bad. But I hate to lose, especially being the only one (of Daimler’s global regions) in the world not getting a market share gain.”

Daum said July and August numbers showed an improvement so he’s optimistic the company can recover from its short slide. DTNA currently holds about 38% of the US Class 8 market and 32% of the Canadian market. Truck orders and business conditions remain strong, but Daum said the biggest threat to the business today would be an increase in interest rates.

Speaking to global markets, Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Daimler board responsible for trucks, pointed out the truck market in the NAFTA region is up 8% this year, countering a sharp decline in demand in Brazil and some other regions.

Yeat-to-date through August, Daimler has sold about 104,000 units into the NAFTA market, up from about 90,000 units through the same period in 2013.

Bernhard said Daimler has a three-pronged strategy for success: a global market presence, intelligent platforms and technological leadership. The company is already a global player, but Bernhard said it’s still working to expand its footprint, notably by exporting India-produced Fuso trucks into new markets in Africa and southeast Asia.

In terms of intelligent platforms, Bernhard referenced the DT12 automated manual transmission, which has been a huge hit in the North American market. The transmission’s success was “only possible because we have intelligent platforms and are able to switch componentry between countries,” he explained.

Daimler’s technological leadership was on display in the form of its autonomous Future Truck 2025.

“We would like to be the undisputed leader of the industry; we will drive technological change,” Bernhard said. However, he acknowledged there’s much work to do before self-driving trucks are allowed on public roads. Also, Bernhard acknowledged there will have to be a business case made for such vehicles before there’s any demand from the marketplace.

“This will only be adopted if this pays for our customers so a business case can be made,” said Bernhard. “We’re not going to sell one single truck if it doesn’t pay off for our customers and at the end of the day, there has to be a business case.”




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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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