Patterson calls 2007 “stressful and disappointing”

DETROIT — Chris Patterson, president and CEO of Freightliner LLC, told a crowd gathered for the launch of Detroit Diesel’s newest heavy-duty diesel engine that 2007 will not be a year that lives fondly in anyone’s memory.

“2007 has obviously been a very disappointing and stressful year for everyone in our business across the North American region,” he said.

Noting that the very high costs associated with the introduction of the new diesel emission standards this year prompted many large customers to purchase far more vehicles in 2006 than they would otherwise have done, Patterson said that caused many buyers to defer purchases that might have taken place this year.

Adding to the North American malaise has been a weaker U.S. economy and a surging Canadian dollar. Patterson said that too has had an adverse affect on customer enthusiasm for buying new equipment.

“As we’ve seen in recent months, the development of the general economy has been somewhat weaker than we expected, which has prolonged the drought of orders that has afflicted the industry,” he notes.

Despite the lackluster economy and the weak order board, it’s been a big year for Freightliner. The unveiling of the new DD15 14.8-litre engine marks the company’s third major product launch this year.

Freightliner rolled out the Sterling Bullet — a class 4-5 midrange conventional — in March while the Cascadia appeared in May, and now in October, we’re getting out first glimpse of the new Daimler Trucks global heavy-duty engine platform, the DD15.

Patterson says this is attributable to the overall strength of the Daimler Group worldwide. “As part of the worlds largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, which has operations in parts of the world that are not affected by this economic downturn, we have been able to continue investing in our future despite the difficult conditions we face here in the U.S. and Canada.”

With a $275 million investment in design and machinery at the Redford, Mi. DDC plant outside Detroit, and a $1.5 billion investment overall in the new heavy-duty engine, Daimler plans to integrate the new DD15 engine into Mercedes-Benz trucks in Europe and Mitsubishi-Fuso truck in Japan, as well as Freightliner, Sterling, and Western Star trucks in the NAFTA market.

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