Truck body manufacturers and truck equipment distributors can expect more standardized offerings and international content in trucks built by Freightliner and its sister companies.
Key executives gave glimpses of the future as well as reflections on the past when the Portland, Oregon company commemorated 25 years as part of DaimlerChrysler May 31 at Freightliner headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
More than 2,500 Freightliner employees were on hand for the party. Dr Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the DaimlerChrysler of board management and responsible for the Mercedes Car Group, arrived from Stuttgart to speak at the event, as did Andreas Renschler, board of management member responsible for the Truck Group and Buses.
Daimler-Benz AG acquired the truck manufacturer in May 1981. At the time of the acquisition, the company had just produced the 200,000th Freightliner truck. Eleven years later, Freightliner celebrated the production of its one-millionth truck.
“Today, Freightliner LLC is part of the world's largest truck manufacturer,” said Chris Patterson, president and CEO of Freightliner LLC. “Our close connection with Mercedes-Benz Trucks and Mitsubishi Fuso assures us of continued leadership in our home market for years to come.”
Daimler-Benz AG's acquisition of Freightliner Corporation in 1981 opened the door to North America, which was the world's largest market for heavy-duty trucks. With a market share of nine percent for Class 8 trucks and annual production of 10,000 units, Freightliner was a medium-sized manufacturer at that time. This changed very quickly. By 1986, Freightliner Corporation was already the second- largest company for heavy-duty trucks, with a market share of 15.5 percent. Today it leads the market for all vehicles from Class 5 and up, the company said.
With annual sales of 182,400 trucks and school buses in 2005, some 21,000 employees and nine manufacturing plants stretching from Oregon to North Carolina and from Canada to Mexico, Freightliner LLC is a key pillar of the DaimlerChrysler Truck Group. The company's product range consists of numerous models ranging from Thomas Built school buses to Freightliner's Coronado, the Western Star Constellation, and the Sterling L- and A-Lines.
Expect these brands to continue leveraging their collective clout and to share components where it makes sense to do so. It is the company's goal, Zetsche, said, for Freightliner to dominate the medium and heavy truck market in North America, with Mercedes holding down the top spot in Europe and Fuso doing the same thing in Asia.
In the North American market, the company has been moving towards more vertical integration. Two out of three Freightliner trucks sold today are powered either by the company's Detroit Diesel or Mercedes brand engines.
“Our goal,” Renschler said, “is to offer three DaimlerChrysler family engines worldwide instead of eight.”
Global Excellence Program
Such goals are consistent with the company's recently announced Global Excellence Program.
“The DaimlerChrysler Truck Group program brings together all of the measures we need to optimize our commercial truck business,” Renschler said. “Our goal is to improve profitability significantly independent of market cycles.”
The program is the reason the company sold its American LaFrance firefighting vehicle business — the operation was a niche that did not fit the company's core business.
On the product side, DaimlerChrysler will implement a modular strategy designed to achieve a high degree of common components and modules across the company's five truck brands.
“We are in the process of rolling out a new management model throughout the company,” Zetsche said. “The objective is to further integrate our global organization, to focus our operating units on their core processes, and to enhance cooperation within the company.”
The Freightliner Business Class M2 delivery truck already features (as standard equipment) a complete power-train from DaimlerChrysler, with an engine, transmission, and axles that are designed for complementary and optimal performance.
The Axle Alliance Company (AAC), a business unit of Detroit Diesel, supplies North American trucks with steering and drive axles, using German components. Detroit Diesel also offers manual transmissions for medium-duty trucks; the designation MBT (Mercedes-Benz Transmission) reveals the origin of the component.
The Mitsubishi Fuso Canter is serving as the basis for the new low cabover-engine (LCOE) vehicle “Sterling 360” from Sterling Truck Corporation, part of the Freightliner LLC family.
In another development, a future generation of medium-duty commercial vehicle engines will initially be used in North America by Freightliner LLC before being launched in other markets. The European “BlueTec” concept for exhaust purification using the SCR (selective catalytic reduction) system with an AdBlue carbamide solution will likely be used in North America as well in order to meet the EPA10 standard that will go into effect in a few years.
In 2007, Freightliner and DDC will be first in the Truck Group to introduce the Heavy-Duty Engine Platform (HDEP). This common design platform will help meet European and Asian as well as NAFTA emission standards, and the need for higher power ratings. This platform will meet 2007 and 2010 emissions standards, and allow the DaimlerChrysler Truck Group to remain competitive and responsive to customers worldwide.
Preparations have been completed for implementing a common electrical and electronic structure for commercial vehicles from Freightliner LLC, Mercedes-Benz, and Mitsubishi Fuso. The Group brands also plan to use common components for truck chassis and cabs.
All of this will provide an effective platform upon which Freightliner LLC can continue its success story, the company said at its 25th anniversary celebration.