At the Mid-America truck show in March, Daimler-Benz AG's U.S. truck organization displayed its take-no-prisoners approach to the heavy-truck market.
The subsidiary, Freightliner Corp., introduced its Class 8 cab-over-engine truck called the Argosy.
To 'clearly dominate the on-highway market and grow this segment of the business at the expense of our competitors.'
Those were the words of Mark Lampert, senior vice president of sales and marketing. And he spoke from a position of strength.
Daimler-Benz is the world's largest maker of commercial trucks. In North America, Daimler-Benz is expanding its business under the Freightliner and Sterling marques. In the United States, Freightliner Corp. is the market leader in Class 8 heavy trucks.
STRONG, BUT SEPARATE
The combination of Daimler-Benz AG and Chrysler Corp. marries two truckmakers with strong market positions but little overlap.
In Europe, Daimler-Benz vehicles range in size from light vans to heavy trucks and are marketed under the Mercedes-Benz nameplate.
Chrysler, on the other hand, focuses on minivans, pickups and sport-utilities. In the first four months of 1998, it sold 559,573 Class 1-3 light trucks, up 11.1 percent from with the corresponding period in 1997.
Dodge pickups in the heavier payload range can be used for commercial purposes, but they are also popular with boaters, campers and individuals who prefer big pickups.
Through the first three months of 1998, Freightliner sold 13,599 trucks for a 30 percent share of the U.S. Class 8 market. That was up slightly from its 29 percent share in the first quarter of 1997.
FORD IS ABOARD
Last year, Daimler-Benz completed the acquisition of Ford Motor Co.'s heavy-truck business and renamed the unit Sterling Truck Corp. The deal gave Freightliner newly developed Class 7-8 vehicles to sell in a growing North American truck market.
Worldwide, Daimler's truck revenue increased 24 percent last year, to $21.5 billion. Unit sales totaled 417,000.
Daimler-Benz has also done design and engineering studies for production of a Freightliner commercial pickup. In 1996, Helmut Werner, then president of Mercedes-Benz AG, told Automotive News that the company was doing design mockups and was planning a pickup prototype with a Freightliner badge.
Werner said the vehicle, built with modular components, could be sold internationally as a commercial-use pickup. He said the truck had a sales potential of 100,000 units annually.
But last week, Freightliner spokeswoman Debi Nicholson said the company has no plans to introduce a pickup.