Charging ahead

Daimler Trucks Asia- IAA 2016 copy

Daimler India Commercial Vehicles charges ahead with a mix of rising domestic sales and a strong exports drive.

Story by:

Anusha B

It was in March 2012 that Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler AG, unveiled its new range of trucks under the BharatBenz brand. The company held a special event spanning six-days at the Hyderabad International Convention Center, where the media, potential customers and brand partners including dealers and suppliers were able to see the trucks up and close. The event followed the announcement from the company that it will seek a presence in the CV segments in India ranging from 9 to 49-tonnes. Truck models to that effect – light-duty and heavy-duty, were showcased. A sale of 1000 trucks was achieved in 2012. In May 2013, the company announced its Indian strategy under its forward-looking programme, Daimler Trucks No. 1. The first outcome of the programme resulted in the launch of a new robust ‘Made in India’ truck portfolio under the Fuso brand for exports. Supported by rising domestic sales and a strong export drive, DICV, it is no secret, is pursuing growth. Expecting to break-even this year, the company, according to Marc Llistosella, President and CEO, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC), and Head of Daimler Trucks Asia, has been able to offset its growth in the domestic market last year with exports. “Our path is promising, and we expect to break-even this year,” he said.

Expecting to be profitable from 2018, DICV, it is certain will continue to follow the strategy of driving exports while it increases its reach in the domestic market. Exports of DICV trucks made at the Oragadam plant ammounted to 4500 units in 2016. In 2015, 2100 units were exported. So far, 7500 trucks have been exported to over 30 markets. Exports of parts from DICV’s extensive Indian supplier base to other Daimler entities in Japan, Europe, North America and Brazil, have crossed 35 million. The domestic performance of the company may reflect from the degrowth of seven per cent, it were the exports that made a difference. A total of 13,081 trucks were sold in the domestic market by the company in 2016. In 2015, 13,997 units were sold. Until now, sources close to the company claim, 40,000 BharatBenz trucks have been put on the road. Said Llistosella, “The Indian operation is a cornerstone of our success at Daimler Trucks Asia. With the launch of a third product line for exports, we will enter the next stage in the strategic collaboration of DICV and MFTBC. DICV will start production of this new series of trucks – sub-9 tonne vehicles, shortly. These would initially be exported as Fuso brand variants.” “The first customer vehicles will roll out in the first half of the year,” he added.

According to Erich Nesselhauf, MD & CEO, DICV, the focus on profitable growth continued in 2016. “A mixed year for the Indian CV industry 2016 was. We were able to compensate the current challenges in the domestic market with our successful export story. With new products in the pipeline, we are geared up for further growth.” Clear about offering fully-built trucks and buses, the implementation of BSIV emission norms in April this year are likely to work to the advantage of the company, which announced last year that product transition to BSIV emission norms has been accomplished. “With BharatBenz, we have the best technology in the market. The CVs are based on proven solutions, and enable use to be fully ready to sell BSIV vehicles in India. Feedback from our customers for our BSIV vehicles clearly indicates that we are perfectly positioned for the transition,” expressed Nesselhauf. He mentioned, “Continuing discussions on BSIV are reflecting upon the attempt of some players in the Indian commercial vehicle industry to dilute this upcoming transition of emissions standards. It should not be diluted by commercial interests. There is no acceptable reason for any delay, as everyone in the industry has had enough time to get ready for the transition. We also believe that our BSIV vehicles are economically beneficial to our customers since they deliver more mileage (kilometer per litre) compared to BSIII versions. Superior efficiency of BSIV trucks can help to reduce the import bill of the Government of India,” explained Nesselhauf. He further stated, “We have been selling BSIV emission compliant CVs since August 2015. The feedback we received was positive.” The company has trained its dealers to cater to its new-tech trucks.

The new generation BharatBenz heavy-duty trucks launched in the coming months, will be key growth drivers, claim Daimler India sources. In Its been three years after the launch of BharatBenz CVs that the company is presenting a new range of medium-duty trucks. Upgrading the entire truck portfolio with the launch of its new generation heavy-duty trucks in the segment between 16 and 49 tonne GWV, the company rolled out the 50,000th CV recently. The roll out marked a production milestone in August 2016. Localisation levels of trucks are claimed to be as high as 92 per cent. With air conditioned cabins on offer, the new BharatBenz trucks are expected to reduce driver fatigue, a major cause for accidents in India.

Erich Nesselhauf- MD&CEO- DICV copy

With the ecanter, the third generation of the world’s first fully-electric light truck under the Fuso brand marking a leap forward, DICV, as part of Daimler’s Asia strategy, continues to look forward to a brighter future. The ecanter, based on the modular battery concept, can cover up to 100 km on a single charge.

MLlistosella copy

It takes less than an hour to charge 80 per cent of the battery. Payback time is expected to be three years. With a payload capacity of two to three-tonne, the trial run of the ecanter is said to have highlighted a saving of around Euro 1000 per 10,000 km. This vehicle will be delivered to the customers in Europe, the US and Japan.

Daimler opens a regional centre at Chennai

Chennai, India, May 19, 2016: Opening of the Daimler Commercial Vehicles Regional Center Southern Asia – (right) Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Daimler Trucks & Buses, and Amit Bisht, Head of the Daimler Regional Center Southern Asia.

Chennai, India, May 19, 2016: Opening of the Daimler Commercial Vehicles Regional Center Southern Asia – (right) Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Daimler Trucks & Buses, and Amit Bisht, Head of the Daimler Regional Center Southern Asia.

Daimler has comissioned a new regional centre at Chennai for commercial vehicles. Coming within seven months of a centre being inaugurated at Dubai, the centre at Chennai marks the completion of regionalisation of sales and service organisation for commercial vehicle business of Daimler in key regions of growth. The centre will oversee sales and service in the six neighbouring markets of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. The CV brands would include BharatBenz trucks, Fuso trucks and buses, and Mercedes-Benz trucks, buses, and vans. “This centre will enable us to offer tailored products and services from a single source to our customers in markets such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar or Nepal,” said Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Daimler Trucks & Buses.

Another wave of CVs from Daimler India

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar, Bhargav TS

Daimler India has unveiled a range of buses in association with Wrightbus, and heavy-duty trucks.

Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) has begun the production of buses in association with Wrightbus. This marks another wave of products from the company in the form of three mid-size buses (for staff, school and tourist application), a Mercedes-Benz 15 m long multi-axle luxury coach, a 3143 deep mining and coal tipper, and a 4940 (6×4) tractor. Banking on a high level of localisation (of up to 80 per cent), the body of the rear engine luxury coach for example is 70 per cent localised. The chassis of the coach is 50 per cent localised. Claimed to be planning to introduce a 12 m two-axle luxury coach on the same platform, DICV continues to be in the growth mode. The last quarter sales of the company posted a growth of 60 per cent.

Situated in the same premises as the truck plant at Oragadam on the outskirts of Chennai, the bus plant was built with an investment of Rs. 425 crore, and is spread over 27.61 acres. Built in a short span of one year according to Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, the bus plant has a capacity to build 1,500 units. It will eventually rise to 4,000 units. Drawing on Ireland-based Wrightbus’ experience in bus body building spanning over 70 years, the buses built at the plant will weigh 9-tonne, 16-tonne and above. Explaining that the multi-axle luxury coach is based on the Brazilian O500 platform, Markus Villinger, MD, Daimler Buses India, said, “We will cater to the private and public sector.” Stressing on the build quality of the buses, and the ability of their bodies to last long, Villinger averred that the buses are equipped with ABS. The luxury coach has ABS, ESP and EBS, he said. Averred Mark Nodder, Chairman & CEO, Wrightbus, “The association to build buses for Daimler India’s venture was won on the ability to deliver quality, speed to market and a good understanding of Daimler’s commitment to quality and robust products.” Remarked Hartmut Schick, Head of Daimler Buses, “The inauguration of the bus plant marks an important milestone. Our buses offer the best mobility; are reliable, robust, comfortable and competitively priced.”

Stressing on the high mobility standards Daimler products have come to offer the world over, Schick opined that the growing economy of India will create a need for mobility.

Integrated with Daimler’s global manufacturing network, the bus venture will also leverage the experience of the Brazilian counterpart in case of the rear engine bus chassis. “Supported by a strong supplier base, the bus plant underlines our commitment to localisation. Equipped with safety features and BS4 emission norms compliant, the buses will roll out in the third quarter of this year,” said Dr. Bernhard. In what could be termed as the amalgamation of modern technologies, the buses employ Wrightbus’ patented technology of bolting an aluminium body structure to the chassis. They are thus claimed to be lighter, efficient, robust and reliable. The tour of the bus plant revealed the role the chassis plant will play. Helping build luxury bus chassis, the plant has 44 stations. Of these, five execute final assembly operations. To ensure the right build standards, the company has trained workers in spot welding and MAG welding. Mid-size bus chassis find their way to the Wrightbus facility from the truck plant.

The two main lines (for mid-size bus and luxury coach each) at the Wrightbus facility include chassis inspection, under-floor preparation, flooring, interiors, glazing, seats and electronics, quality, paint preparation, primer and top coat, post paint, and testing. The two lines converge at the paint shop. Another paint shop will be added in the future, and as the numbers pick up. Emphasis will be also laid on training since areas like the attachment of box-section with the front and rear end of the luxury bus chassis, and the bolting of aluminium structure to the chassis have a direct impact on the success of the operation. Apart from a core team of 30 people from Wrightbus Ireland, the plant employs 140 people. This figure will rise to 1,300 people once the operation gathers speed.

Based on ‘platforms’ like the other Daimler Trucks portfolios the world over, DICV is not relying entirely on the local market. It never has. Stated Dr. Bernhard that the strategy is based on three pillars – technological leadership, gathering market presence and intelligent platforms. Out of this stems the need for synergies in areas like engine, chassis, electronics, etc. Drawing attention to a shift towards higher capacity trucks, DICV CEO Erich Nesselhauf reasoned that volumes will dictate the localisation of heavy-duty engines. The engine (OM457) that powers the 3143, 4940 and the luxury coach is sourced from Mannheim according to sources close to the company. It will be sourced from Brazil once the production shifts there. A major optimisation programme is currently on in Brazil.

With 20,000 BharatBenz trucks already on Indian roads, DICV is set to play an important role in the scheme of things at Daimler Trucks, which announced a revenue of EUR 8,414 million in the first quarter of 2015 against EUR 7,121 million a year ago. According to Dr. Bernhard, the third and fourth quarter are expected to bring substantial growth. Evaluating the city bus market in India while it caters to the private and public sectors, DICV, with an eye on exports, has already exported over 100 bus chassis to Egypt starting early this year. Over 2,000 trucks have been exported under the Fuso brand to more than 12 countries across Asia, Africa and other regions of the world. In right-drive and left-drive configurations. Over one-million parts have been exported to other Daimler locations across the globe. Boasting of offering zero discounts, DICV in India, is planning to utilise its 80 truck dealers to sell buses. With Daimler Financial Services by its side, the company is ensuring that the Indian commercial vehicle buyer has a wider choice.

Daimler Trucks drives first autonomous truck on public roads

 

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Daimler Trucks became the world´s first manufacturer to be granted a road license for an autonomous heavy-duty truck. The first journey in the so-called Freightliner Inspiration Truck, which took place on US highway 15 in Las Vegas, was made by Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada, and Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard. The truck is equipped with the intelligent Highway Pilot system for autonomous driving. The state of Nevada licensed two Freightliner Inspiration Trucks for regular operation on public roads. Daimler Trucks is the global leading truck manufacturer and, with the Freightliner brand, also the biggest producer in the U.S.
“Our Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the world´s first autonomous commercial vehicle to be licensed for road use. Our achievement here underlines yet again our role as a technological pioneer and demonstrates our consistent dedication to develop the technology for autonomous long-distance driving to series production standard. I am proud of this extra-ordinary achievement by the Daimler Trucks team,” stated Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler AG board member responsible for Trucks and Buses.
Highway Pilot system to be developed to series production standard
Transport in the future must be even safer, more efficient and more networked – this is the aspiration that Daimler Trucks has expressed in the new Freightliner Inspiration Truck. In July of last year, Daimler Trucks provided the world´s first demonstration of an autonomous truck in action when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg. Now, the first appearance of the Inspiration Truck on a public road in the U.S. marks the logical next step on the journey to series production. In the last few months the technology has been tested over many thousands of kilometers and configured for use in U.S. highway traffic.
“We are in a unique position among manufacturers that we are able to implement technologies across all business units and brands. We have transferred our Highway Pilot system to our U.S. Freightliner brand within a very short time frame and developed it for the world´s first autonomous truck to be licensed for road use,” reports Dr. Bernhard.
Spectacular world premiere near Las Vegas
The world premiere of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck took place near Las Vegas, in front of representatives of the media, government as well as business and finance. Trucks are by far the most important means of transport in the U.S. In 2012, trucks transported around 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the United States. This way, a total of 9.4 billion tons of freight were moved by trucks. Globally, the road freight transport is expected to even triple between now and 2050. Autonomous trucks provide the opportunity to cope with this growth in a manner that harmonizes economic and environmental needs.
“Nevada is proud to be making transportation history today by hosting the first U.S. public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck. The application of this innovative technology to one of America’s most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the New Nevada economy,” said Gov. Sandoval. “The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been closely monitoring the advancements being made in autonomous vehicle development and reviewed DTNA’s safety, testing and training plans before granting permission for this demonstration of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.”

Freightliner Inspiration Truck: Revolutionary technology will be tested on public roads
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is based on the series-produced US Freightliner Cascadia Evolution model, but with the addition of the Highway Pilot technology. The latter comprises a front radar and a stereo camera plus tried-and-tested assistance systems such as the Adaptive Cruise Control+, as seen in the Mercedes-Benz Actros. For licensing on public roads in Nevada, the technology was further developed and the excellent interaction of components extensively tested. As part of the truck´s so-called Marathon Run, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck covered over 10,000 miles (over 16,000 kilometers) on a test circuit in Germany.
“The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is all about more sustainable transport, for the benefit of the economy, society and consumers alike. It remains our goal to be in a position to offer the Highway Pilot in series-produced vehicles from the middle of the coming decade. With licensing for road use in the USA we have reached an important milestone in autonomous truck driving,” emphasizes Martin Daum, President and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).
“Daimler Trucks is actively urging dialogue with politicians, authorities and all other parties involved. Our next goal is to test the Highway Pilot technology on public roads in Germany too. Preparations are already under way”, Dr. Bernhard adds.
Initial research findings of Daimler Trucks clearly show autonomous driving relieves the strain of truck drivers
The Highway Pilot technology from Daimler Trucks demonstrably leads to more concentrated and thus more efficient long-haul truck drivers. This is a result of studies conducted on a cordoned-off test route during the pilot stage of the technology. Measurements of the probands´ brain currents (EEG) demonstrated that driver drowsiness decreases by about 25% when the truck is being operated in autonomous mode, and the driver all the while pursuing other meaningful operations. The studies also prove a high acceptance of the Highway Pilot technology and a rapid adaption phase of the probands. Relieving strains of the driver through autonomous truck driving leads to more road safety.