Daimler Truck and Bus, global chief Martin Daum has told media at this week’s IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover this week that the prospect of a global trade war is worrying and will have no winners.
Daum told the media that a trade war would have no winners, just losers.
“I am genuinely worried about the tendencies in the world that each and every country builds up walls and separates from each other,”said the Daimler boss.
“I am a huge proponent of open borders, we are one globe, one people on that globe and if we work together we grow the cake. Whoever separates himself from the global markets suffers, you get a bigger share of your cake, but the cake shrinks,”he added.
“We depend on the free exchange of goods, ideas and of people. The problems of the world are global, and the solutions are global,”said Daum.
Daum went on to say that steel and aluminium prices have skyrocketed, especially in the U.S.A as a result of tariff increases, making the trucks his company manufactures more expensive. Daub added that in the end it is not so much the company that suffers but the consumers, because ultimately transportation might become more expensive and that will ultimately impact consumer prices on the shelves.
When asked about the star on the Daimler stand in Hannover, the recently unveiled new Mercedes Benz Actros and the flow on its automated driver assistance package might have on other Daimler trucks such as the Freightliner Cascadia, Daum was a little cagey.
“You can be certainly sure that nearly everything we are showing here you will see on the streets of the U.S.A, but I am not telling you when. Things are sometimes closer than they appear,” Daum said.
The revolutionary Mercedes Benz Mirror Cam seen on the new Benz Actros also raised questions about whether legislation in certain markets, including the U.S., might need to be changed to allow the system to be used.
“We are lobbying for those things because we see a certain benefit to it,”said Daum.
“We always have to adapt these technologies to the local markets and we are in talks with the legislators to get that innovation into the states as well,”he added.
“Taking the mirror away not just improves aerodynamics, it increases safety because you have far fewer blind spots when you look outside the cab,”he said.
Daum was also quizzed about Daimler recently stating that it wanted to make operating a truck as easy as operating a cell phone.
“I was in line at an airport and there were about 100 people waiting, and every single person was looking at their smartphone,”said Daum.
“This is a dream for every manufacturer, and if you were attached to the truck and every driver wanted it, then that would be something.”
“I think the convergence of systems, entertainment, the phone and on the trucking side a lot of logistics information could be put on the screen and combined into one platform which is open so that hours of service could be included as well as telematics information, etc., you could even perhaps use it in the evening as an entertainment system, that would really make it a good working space for the truck driver,”said Daum.
Daum said that it was also an advantage for Daimler to be a part of a company with an advanced car making division.
“I think it helps, I see more synergies than ever between the units and there is an exchange when it comes to the talent pool, sometimes we really benefit each other if you can exchange people. It is an exchange of ideas and thinking from a completely different angle that is the biggest advantage,”he added.
“A lot of the challenges that we have these days when it comes to electric, autonomous and connectivity can be more easily tackled by drawing technology and ideas from each other,”he said.
With Daimler also showing a hydrogen fuel cell van, Daum was asked about whether this technology was far away from being available for trucks and buses.
“We really have good knowledge, but we don’t see the technology at the moment as ripe for the market. It works, but it is four times as expensive as a combustion bus and we don’t have a hydrogen infrastructure yet,”said Daum.
“If there is a market we will be there and we are fully aware of the technology, but we don’t see the timeline, so I can say we are observing the market,” he added
With truck sales booming in the U.S., in Europe and across the globe, Daum was asked whether he was worried about a possible cyclical downturn.
“The sentiment of our customers is strong, the demand for freight is high and freight rates continue to be high,”said Daum.
The new trucks are always better trucks, better than older trucks still on the road, so you see a natural replacement cycle. But I think from my U.S. compass, the markets are a little too high,”he said.
“When we have years when the market is way above the long-term average it foreshadows a valley. As much as it is above the average before the downturn, then the deeper it will be during the downturn.”
“In the USA we are sold out for 2018 and we are basically sold out for the first half of 2019, that is a really strong market,”he added.
“What could change things in the world economy would be if a really big trade war was started, that could get a recession in the U.S., higher interest rates and because trucks are financed that would amplify things,”said Daum.
“But this is the daily environment for a senior executive at a truck company, we will deal with it,”the Daimler boss concluded.