June 13, 2014 6:08 am JST

Daimler to ramp up Asian sales of trucks, buses

TOKYO -- Daimler has plans to greatly boost Asian sales of commercial vehicles over the next few years, says Wolfgang Bernhard, who heads the truck and bus division.

     The German company already claims the world's No. 1 spot in commercial vehicles, generating roughly 20% of its operating profit in this field.

     But Daimler sees great growth potential in the markets of Asia, as Bernhard told The Nikkei on Thursday, and aims to increase sales of commercial vehicles there by 80% over the 2013 figure to 290,000 around 2020.

     Daimler sold roughly 160,000 commercial vehicles in Asia in 2013 including smaller offerings. This was more or less flat from the previous year and represented 34% of its global sales.

     Asian companies are also well-established in the field. China's Dongfeng Motor sold about 240,000 large vehicles last year, primarily in its home market.

     The Stuttgart-based company plans to raise global sales of commercial vehicles to 700,000 in 2020. It will boost the share of Asian sales above 40%, taking aim at local rivals on the continent.

     Bernhard stresses that Asian countries are growing at the fastest pace in the world, pointing in particular to places like Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Vietnam.

     Daimler plans to exploit the sales network of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus to go on the offensive in the region, vying with rivals like Volvo of Sweden as well as Japanese players.

     Bernhard, who is also a Daimler board member and potential successor to Chairman Dieter Zetsche, says the Japan-based subsidiary's firmly established network of stores and services are a great asset.

     To establish itself in Asian markets, the company has focused on offering Fuso-branded, midsize and large trucks. In a bid to snatch customers from local competitors, it has priced these vehicles below other Daimler and Mitsubishi Fuso vehicles.

     Mitsubishi Fuso has a strong reputation as a purveyor of pricey vehicles in Asia, so the "three diamonds" logo is absent from the Fuso models.

     A Daimler facility in southern India went onstream in 2012. The plant had mainly been churning out BharatBenz-branded trucks for the Indian market but will increase production of Fuso-branded trucks going forward. The company expects tailwinds from a softer Indian currency.