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Daimler Steps On The Gas

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Daimler Steps On The Gas
Daimler Steps On The Gas

Video: Daimler Steps On The Gas

Video: Daimler Steps On The Gas

After the sale of Chrysler, Daimler picked up on old heydays. Nevertheless, the group is not going completely problem-free into the coming financial years.

By Frank Heidmann and Michael Friedrich

Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche, his company is apparently really fun at the moment. "The course is clear, Daimler is accelerating," he announced in a good mood on Thursday at the annual press conference in Stuttgart within sight of the corporate headquarters in Untertürkheim. So there is no comparison with the Zetsche, which visibly damaged in Detroit last year announced its departure from the loss-making US subsidiary Chrysler.

2008 continued to grow

A lot has happened since then. The Stuttgart-based company only holds a minority stake of just under 20 percent in Chrysler; Zetsche got rid of half of the shares in the crisis-ridden Airbus parent company EADS, which is struggling with skill wrangling, the weak dollar and constant delays in Airbus development, in good time for good money. A pleasant side effect: the 2007 balance sheet is pimped up with at least 1.5 billion euros.

Otherwise the numbers are also strong. Not only that Mercedes-Benz Cars, with an EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) of 4.7 billion euros, continued its old heyday and should cause the success-used competitor BMW to ponder. Truck boss Andreas Renschler also rated the fact that the truck division was not only not in the red in a strong downturn, but actually increased profits. In 2008 sales and earnings should continue to grow.

Problem areas in Asia and Eastern Europe

But there is no sunshine at Daimler either. Observers point out that Zetsche will have to make important decisions for the future: For example, how will things go on in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe and especially China? According to automotive expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, the group is lagging behind in both the passenger car and commercial vehicle business in Russia and China. The Stuttgart-based company also needs answers to the question of how the product range can be diversified and sales increased. Added to this are the impending emissions regulations from Brussels and the current uncertain development of the US economy.

Zetsche made some vague comments on these questions, but with a view to the important decision about the future of the compact segment (A / B class), he indicated that a foreign location in addition to Rastatt in Baden was currently being sought. "We think about how and where we can install additional capacities." That Eastern Europe has priority here has been stated several times elsewhere. It's all about decent numbers. "A factory for fewer than 100,000 units makes little sense."

New model variants planned

It has also been agreed that the A- and B-Class will be more clearly separated from each other and at the same time more plans for model variants such as convertibles and small SUVs are in the drawers. But Zetsche didn't want to be looked at here. He only confirmed that there would be further discussions with potential partners - including BMW - about a possible collaboration on components. A decision has not yet been made.

Although Daimler currently has anything but money worries with around 14 billion euros in the cash register, tough competition and the impending emissions regulations from Brussels are putting Daimler, like all other car manufacturers, under pressure. Because new models and better engines cost money, a lot of money in fact. "None of this will be available for free." Cooperation makes sense. But Zetsche also wants to significantly increase its own spending on research and development. The target of ten percent returns in the auto business from 2010 are therefore “not a sure-fire success”, warned Zetsche, “but require considerable effort.” (dpa / dpa-afx)

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