Daimler AG has made an excellent start to the year 2012. “Our company is on the way to its best form, but is not there yet.

We are confident we can do more, and that also applies to our share price,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, according to the text of his speech to the expected 5,800 shareholders at the International Congress Center (ICC) in Berlin.

In the first three months of the year 2012, the Group once again sold more vehicles than in the same period of last year. Unit sales by Mercedes-Benz Cars in the period of January through March increased by 12% to more than 340,000 units compared with the prior-year period. The division thus achieved its best-ever first quarter and its best-ever monthly unit sales in March. The growth drivers since January have been the C-Class models (plus 27%), the S-Class (plus 18%) and the SUV segment (plus 8%). There was also strong demand for the new B-Class, the first of five cars in the new compact range, with orders received for over 100,000 units to date. Although the B-Class is so far only available in Europe, more than 35,000 cars have already been delivered to customers. In September, the new A-Class will be launched, the second car of the new compact car portfolio.

Global car markets should grow by 4% this year. “At Mercedes, we’re on a roll, and we want to beat that,” said Zetsche and affirmed the unit-sales forecast for Mercedes-Benz Cars. The division assumes that this year it will surpass the unit-sales record it set in 2011.
The Daimler Trucks division was also very successful with its strong product portfolio; according to preliminary figures, it sold about 107,000 vehicles from January through March of this year (plus 20%). A major contribution came from Daimler Trucks North America with growth of 41%. Fuso also continued its positive development in Japan, while unit sales in Europe and Latin America decreased by 5%.
From today’s perspective, the division anticipates further growth in unit sales in 2012. In any case, the new Actros is likely to gain market share in the euro zone. The opening of a new plant in Chennai, India in the next few days will be an important step towards conquering new sales markets. As of the third quarter, trucks will be produced specifically for the Indian market under the “BharatBenz” brand.

The Mercedes-Benz Vans division’s core markets developed as follows in the first three months of the year: Unit sales increased by 23% in North America and by 10% in Latin America, despite the upcoming model change for the Sprinter in the latter market. In Europe, however, unit sales decreased by 8%. The division is nonetheless confident for the full year that it will maintain the level of unit sales in the euro zone that it achieved in 2011. As of September, sales will be stimulated by the new Citan city van, following its debut at Germany’s IAA international motor show for commercial vehicles in that month. This new small van targets a segment with a total volume of about 700,000 vehicles per annum, of which Mercedes-Benz Vans intends to take a market share of 4 to 5%.

Daimler Buses sold about 5,000 units in the first quarter, lower than the prior-year number. According to preliminary figures, Daimler Financial Services smoothly continued its business development of 2011 and increased its new business to €8.2 billion in the first quarter of this year. The division’s contract volume remained at a record level.

Based on the divisions’ development, Zetsche affirmed the forecasts for 2012: The Group expects its total unit sales to increase again significantly along with further revenue growth. The target for EBIT from the ongoing business is the high level of the prior year (2011: €9.0 billion).

Achieving sustained growth through innovation
The motto of this year’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, “Growth and Innovation,” brings together two topics of fundamental importance for the future of the Daimler Group. By 2020, the annual global vehicle market should have growth by approximately 40 million to about 120 million units. “The question is not whether this growth will take place, but how it can be made sustainable,” said Zetsche. He believes that innovation has the potential to convert growth into prosperity. “Where that occurs, growth will be ecologically compatible and productive for both society and the economy,” explained Zetsche.

The Daimler Group is at the forefront with both of these topics, and has a first-class starting point for sustained innovation and profitable growth. With the Mercedes-Benz 2020 growth strategy, the Mercedes-Benz brand aims to reclaim its position as the leading manufacturer of premium automobiles also in terms of unit sales. Daimler Trucks intends to defend its first place with its Global Excellence strategy. And the other divisions have similar plans to defend or take over the top position.

In 2012 and 2013 alone, the Group will invest €10.9 billion in research and development and €10.6 billion in property, plant and equipment. Daimler will extend its leading role with green technologies. Some examples are the further development of the automobile into a zero-emission vehicle and the digital networking of automobiles to control traffic and reduce congestion.

With internal-combustion engines, the CO2 emissions of Mercedes-Benz Cars’ fleet has been reduced within two vehicle generations by 35% to an average of 150 grams per kilometer. A fleet average of 125 g/km is to be achieved by 2016.

Mercedes-Benz already sells the world’s most economical full-size sedan: the E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid with consumption of 4.2 liters of diesel fuel per 100 kilometers. Starting this summer, the Daimler Group will be the first premium manufacturer to supply an electric car for all: the e-smart.

Affirmation of medium-term goals
At the event in Berlin, Zetsche affirmed Daimler’s medium-term targets for unit sales and earnings: In the year 2015, more than 1.6 million Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, over half a million trucks, more than 400,000 vans and approximately 42,000 buses are to be sold.
As of the year 2013, Daimler aims to achieve an average return on sales in its automotive business of 9%. The targets for the divisions are a return on sales of 10% for Mercedes-Benz Cars, 8% for Daimler Trucks, 9% for Mercedes-Benz Vans and 6% for Daimler Buses, and a return on equity of 17% for Daimler Financial Services. Mercedes-Benz Vans and Daimler Financial Services already achieved or surpassed their targets in 2011.

Record year 2011 and a high dividend
Daimler had presented its figures for the year 2011 in February. In its jubilee year, the Group set records for unit sales, revenue, EBIT and net profit. Worldwide, 2.1 million vehicles were sold and total revenue increased by 9% to €106.5 billion (2010: €97.8 billion). Group EBIT amounted to €8.8 billion (2010: €7.3 billion) and the Group’s EBIT from the ongoing business was €9.0 billion (2010: €7.2 billion). Net profit increased to €6.0 billion (2010: €4.7 billion).

In view of the very positive business development, the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board proposed the distribution of a dividend of €2.20 per share at today’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting. This constitutes a total payout of almost €2.3 billion and a dividend ratio of about 40% in relation to the Group’s net profit. The dividend for the year 2011 is one of the highest in Daimler’s history.

Source: Daimler AG