WOERTH, Germany -- The world's biggest truck maker, DaimlerChrysler, said on Monday that it was counting on new products and greater parts sharing to raise the division's profits this year in the face of stagnant demand.
The company said its new Actros heavy duty truck, which went into production at its Woerth plant in southern Germany on Monday, would help boost the unit's performance this year, even though the weak market conditions of 2002 were showing no sign of abating.
"The commercial vehicle sector simply cannot count on support from the international markets in 2003," said Eckhard Cordes, head of DaimlerChrysler's truck unit, reiterating comments made earlier this year.
Cordes, who expects the European market to be roughly flat this year, said he was unable to predict the effect the war in Iraq may have on business this year.
"I don't know. Anything I say would be speculation and we cannot say what the effect will be," he said at a press conference.
DaimlerChrysler, emerging from restructuring at several of its truck businesses, has said it aims to lift operating profit at its commercial vehicle arm this year from 2002's level of 176 million euros ($187 million) as it continues to cut costs. It expects revenue and unit sales to be roughly flat.
Few companies or analysts expect a swift recovery in demand for commercial vehicles, a sector whose health tends to reflect closely that of the wider economy.
DaimlerChrysler's biggest global rival, Volvo, said last month it saw no major recovery in North America in the first part of 2003 and that Europe was set to face a continued, though not dramatic, downturn.