MUNICH (Reuters) - German trucks and engineering group MAN saw incoming orders jump 23 percent last month and is hoping a new line of more efficient engines will help it boost market share.
MAN Chief Executive Rudolf Rupprecht said in remarks embargoed for publication on Wednesday that 2003 had started well after orders for the group rose 23 percent year-over-year to 1.21 billion euros ($1.54 billion) in January.
But managers at the Bavarian firm cautioned in the embargoed briefing late on Tuesday that even after a 10 percent orders rise in the fourth quarter of 2003, it did not expect to maintain such high growth rates for the full year.
The jumps in orders come after MAN said in January that following a 2003 revenue slip, the group expects a significant rise in profits this year.
Hakan Samuelsson, head of the company's core commercial vehicles unit, said that he expects unit sales at MAN's trucks division to grow more than 5 percent in 2004 after a 3.6 percent rise last year.
The company, which also supplies diesel engines that power cruise ships and builds space rocket components, said last month that new orders at its key commercial vehicles division rose 4 percent to 6.8 billion euros last year, with trucks accounting for the rise and bus orders flat.
Nonetheless, MAN's bus division, which in 2002 made a loss before interest and tax of 71 million euros, had broken even at an operating level last year, according to Samuelsson who is widely tipped to replace Rupprecht whose contract as CEO expires at the end of the year.
Presenting MAN's latest generation of truck engines in Munich, Samuelsson said that he hoped the new range of D20 Common Rail motors, developed at a cost of 200 million euros, would help win new business in coming years.
The company says the common rail technology, until now used mainly in cars, will cut fuel use by as much as 5 percent, will reduce noise and will allow the engines to run 20 percent longer between service intervals.
Having increased its slice of the West European truck market by 1 percent in 2003, the division's boss is hoping to boost MAN's market share in the region to 18 percent from 14.9 percent over the medium term.
"That is perhaps the right speed for the future," Samuelsson said adding that MAN wants to put 12,000 of the new engines into its trucks in 2004.
Rupprecht meanwhile repeated that there would be no tie-up with fellow European truck maker Scania as arch-rival Volvo seeks to sell a stake in its Swedish neighbor in order to comply with European competition laws.
Acquisitions were not necessary for MAN which could use quality and improvements as a means to grow organically, Samuelsson added.