FRANKFURT - DaimlerChrysler AG said on Friday it had spent 710 million euros ($767.7 million) to boost its presence in the fast-growing Asian truck market with the long-expected purchase of a stake in partner Mitsubishi's trucks unit.
The world's biggest truckmaker said it had acquired a 43 percent stake in the Fuso unit, which was spun off of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., to gain a bigger slice of the Asian market, which accounts for nearly half of all global commercial vehicle sales.
"By investing directly in the Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp., we have made an important move in Asia, a move which should help us enhance our position as the world market leader over the long term," said Eckhard Cordes, head of its Commercial Vehicles Division in a statement.
Fuso, which has a 30 percent market share in Japan,also will help DaimlerChrysler cut costs by using shared components and jointly developing new vehicles.
Daimler also said it would pay about 400 million euros for a 50 percent stake in the commercial vehicles unit of Hyundai Motor Corp. in another long-anticipated move. It said the unit would become a separate company in the coming weeks.
Cost savings with partners, rather than boosting market share at any price, have become a priority at DaimlerChrysler after its ambitious global strategy caused headaches when its U.S. Chrysler and Freightliner activities sank into the red two years ago.
Mitsubishi Motor Corp., in which DaimlerChrysler holds a 37 percent controlling stake, would retain 42 percent of the shares in the truck unit, while the remaining 15 percent would be held by other Mitsubishi Group companies.
"Daimler's trucks division has tried for years to get a hold in Asia. It is one of the few growing markets for commercial vehicles," said HVB auto sector analyst Georg Stuerzer, but he added that it would take years to reap the rewards.
"It is much too early to discuss increasing market share. This is a medium-term project. It will take five to 10 years to bring the model cycles together."
As for the Hyundai unit, Daimler already has a diesel truck engines joint venture with Hyundai, which will become part of the new company that will produce trucks, buses and components.
Daimler said Wilfried Porth would become chief executive officer at Mitsubishi trucks, while Takashi Usami, former head of MMC commercial vehicles business, would be chairman.