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The head of Daimler’s global truck operation believes the upcoming restructuring into a separate company positions it to accelerate growth in terms of both innovation and financial opportunity.
“I was pushing for this for years and finally it came. It’s a dream come true,” said Martin Daum, head of Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler Trucks, in an exclusive interview with Transport Topics.
Parent company Daimler AG on Feb. 3 announced that its truck and car divisions would split in two, with the car division being renamed Mercedes-Benz and the truck and bus unit becoming Daimler Truck AG. Both would be individually traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
The deal, Daum told TT, “unleashes the entrepreneurial abilities on the truck side.”
That applies to all of the company’s operations, he noted, including its European home base, North America and elsewhere.
“We can really strengthen that culture around the globe,” Daum said. “It’s an absolutely great and unbeatable combination. The time is right.”
A key reason, Daum said, is the freedom that independence will provide Daimler’s truck unit in mapping out its goals and strategies.
“You can really invest to the necessities and the abilities of your brand,” he said.
That’s especially true in the United States, Daum noted, where Daimler Trucks North America is the market leader. Daum said the year ahead holds promise once the country — and his company — gets a firmer grip on managing the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are going into a very strong 2021, and I hope that we can continue with this pace on the production side,” Daum said.
But Daimler is doing so with caution. “We have very strict and comprehensive hygienic rules and regular testing,” he said. “I hope that we can vaccinate our workers, especially in the U.S., as fast as possible to keep the plants going and serve that big demand from those markets.”
Zero-emission technology is one market where Daimler is active, and one where Daum looks to accelerate growth.
“Where we would like to speed things up is with the zero-emissions powertrain,” Daum said. “We have a lot of trucks already on the road in the U.S., but we want to push that — from the eCascadia to the eM2, including electric school buses — because we see huge market opportunities and huge growth opportunities Given our unique technology positions, I think those activities will be split up once we are an independent company.”
But that doesn’t mean collaboration with Mercedes-Benz will end.
Current Daimler AG headquarters. (Daimler AG)
“There will be continued cooperation,” Daum said. “ This is not a nasty divorce; this is more like siblings getting older, moving out and into their own homes. But they still love each other and have close exchanges with each other.”
In fact, he noted that the truck and car operations have long done business together, despite being part of a larger conglomerate. “In Europe, in our powertrain factories, we produce a lot of parts that are used on the van and passenger car sides. We negotiate pricing, and treat them like equal customers.”
Still, he noted that standing alone will help the truck unit maintain more direct control; raising financing will be easier, and the company will no longer have to compete with the automobile division for resources.
“It’s a shared budget at the end of the day,” Daum said. “The more people you have to align, the more difficult it is. Therefore, it is really great that we at Daimler were able to make this move.”
Daum was quick to note that the two sides may continue sharing technology.
“When we started our accelerator program on the truck side with fuel cells with Volvo Truck, we made absolutely sure that passenger car is able to gain access to that technology,” Daum said. “We’d happily supply fuel cell technology if the passenger car market would change to fuel cell.”
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Meantime, Daum is focused on leading his stand-alone truck business forward. With favorable market conditions and cash in the bank, he’s optimistic.
“I have absolutely no doubt that we have enough strength to generate the funds we need, and on the other side, start the life of the independent truck [company],” Daum said, noting that the company’s strong cash position — a “rainy day fund of $1.5 billion” — sits on top of what already has been invested, and puts Daimler in a good position to seize any opportunities that come along.
“We are extremely healthy,” he said. “Everything we have planned is already financed. If ideas come around, then we will move and we will move fast, for the better of the company.”
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