Daimler Bullish on Mexican Market

The unique Mexican market sees this Fuso badged as a Freightliner

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — With a display reminiscent of the parent company’s dominating presence at the giant IAA commercial vehicles exhibition in Germany, Daimler Mexico made its intentions clear at this past week’s Expo Transporte, the bi-annual Mexican truck show. Daimler showcased 23 vehicles at its ‘booth’, among them several Freightliner models new to the country and the latest Detroit Diesel DD15 engine, as well as buses and the new Sprinter van. The 48,000-sq-ft display was the largest ever seen at the show.

Stefan Kürschner, Daimler Mexico’s new president and CEO, in the job just eight weeks, told journalists that his key immediate intention is to solidify the company’s hold on second place in the class 8 truck market. It’s in a dogfight with International for that spot, the leader being Kenworth’s KenMex subsidiary. It does have a lead in some segments, the beverage industry for instance, where the Freightliner M2 106 holds a 65% market share.

Daimler has been in Mexico for 40 years and operates two plants there, in Santiago and Saltillo, which have built a combined 400,000 units. Presently it builds 52 percent of all class 4 to 8 trucks manufactured there, and 58 percent of trucks exported. In those assembly facilities as well as a parts distribution center, the company employs 5300 people. During the first quarter of 2013, the company made a $45-million investment in improvements to the Santiago facility.

Kurschner says he sees ample opportunity for growth but not at any price. Rather he’s aiming for “sustainable profitability” in the coming years, adding that in 2014 Mexican truck sales should be solid. A challenge, for Daimler and all other truck makers, is that a substantial portion of the trucks in operation in Mexico are 20 years old, or even older.

“That’s also an opportunity for me,” says Kurschner.

It’s essentially a two-tier market, one part populated by fleets that would be at home anywhere else in North America, the other part a very long way behind. New Freightliner trucks — and the DD15 engine — adhere to Euro IV emission standards (somewhat similar to EPA 2007 but less stringent) using EGR but there are no emissions rules to get old trucks off the road. New Daimler Mexico buses, interestingly, run to the Euro V standard.

Among the trucks on display at the Daimler stand was a Mercedes-Benz Actros, the big flagship cabover that leads the European class 8 market. Kurschner says the COE lives in a small niche in Mexico, noting that others bring them in too. Elsewhere in the show I spotted a Volvo FE and a Volkswagen-badged MAN. Scania has quite a few of its European cabovers running in Mexico as well, though its stand at Expo Transporte was populated only by buses. Daimler took delivery of 22 new Actros tractors on the show’s opening day, coincidentally.

“If there are clients that want the Actros, we will work with them,” says Kurschner, while noting that buying and running a European truck in Mexico is an expensive proposition. “Let’s see what the customer wants.”

The new truck models shown by Daimler at the show were:

A class 4 FL 360 urban delivery truck with a 3.0-liter diesel engine using Euro IV technology.

An M2 100 mid-range truck rated for 19,000 lb with an automated Mercedes-Benz AGS transmission and four-cylinder diesel for city delivery. It marks the brand’s entry into the class 5 segment.

An M2 112 medium-duty truck sporting a Cummins Westport ISL G natural gas (CNG) engine. With CNG costing 40 percent less than diesel, it has five 15-gal tanks providing a range up to 500 km. As of yet, however, there is no CNG infrastructure in Mexico.

The company also showed a Freightliner Cascadia XT 48-inch sleeper model with a DD15 engine, produced in the Saltillo plant.

There was also a Cascadia Raised Roof with a DD15 engine and a 72-inch sleeper, which will be one of the largest trucks in the market.

By the end of October, Daimler Trucks Mexico had sold more than 6,000 units, representing a 6-percent growth against the previous year.

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