From left, Martin Daum, Wolfgang Bernhard, and new Daimler global communications director for commercial vehicles, Florian Martens. (Photo by Evan Lockridge)
ORLANDO – Although truck sales are not where they thought they would be a year ago, Daimler Trucks executives say they've achieved a list of goals and are solidly on top in U.S. market share – but they'd like to see the U.S. government take some steps to provide a more stable economic environment and incentivize the purchase of new, cleaner-burning trucks.
In an annual roundtable for reporters at the American Trucking Associations' annual Management Conference and Exhibition, Daimler Trucks' new CEO, Wolfgang Bernhard, and Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, shared their thoughts on where Daimler Trucks and the trucking market are today and where they are going.
Wolfgang Bernhard, the new CEO of Daimler Trucks, talks to reporters. (Photo by Evan Lockridge)
Bernhard pointed out to chuckles that trucks are a little bigger than motorcycles, but the product is still the key. He was referring to his stint as president of Chrysler (when it was Daimler Chrysler), when in 2003 he roared onto the stage in Detroit on a thundering, V-10 powered concept motorcycle called the Tomahawk.
He also reported that he has gotten his European commercial license and will work on getting a U.S. CDL. "One of my basic principles is you need to know your product, you need to be able to understand your business from the customer's point of view. If we don't understand what they need tomorrow, they won't need us the day after tomorrow."
Daum acknowledged that he has not been a very good forecaster when it comes to numbers. Last year at the ATA roundtable, he predicted a strong uptick for 2013.
"I know I'm your favorite fortuneteller and of course I'm wrong all the time," Daum said with a chuckle. Nevertheless, he did say he expects the U.S. Class 6-8 market for 2014 will be flat to up 10%. "I'm still optimistic, but with all fortune telling it comes with no guarantees and lots of disclaimers," he said.
However, Daum was visibly pleased with the number of goals he set out for DTNA at last year's meeting that have all come to fruition, some even better than expected, including establishing the Cascadia Evolution as the industry benchmark, pulling away in medium-duty/vocational sales and greenhouse gas emissions leadership.
One initiative that went even better than Daum had hoped was "shifting the paradigm" with the new Detroit DT12 automated manual transmission.
Late last year, when Detroit announced it would be producing the DT 12 at its plant outside Detroit, Mich., Daum compared the automated transmission market in North America to the classic chicken and egg dilemma, but said he was confident that making this investment in automated transmissions will help drive the market.