“Growth and efficiency: Daimler is staying the course” is not only the motto of today’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting of Daimler AG, but also describes the Group’s strategic focus.

Daimler is pursuing the goal of reaching the top of the respective sectors. “We are Daimler. We don’t only want to get better. We want to beat the competition – on a permanent basis,” stated Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, with regard to the Group’s goals, according to the text of his speech.

“In 2012, Daimler continued to grow,” Zetsche said about the past financial year before an expected number of approximately 5,000 shareholders at the Berlin Trade Fair Center (Berliner Messe). The Group achieved record unit sales and revenue in 2012. Worldwide, 2.2 million vehicles were sold and Group revenue increased by 7% to €114.3 billion (2011: €106.5 billion). Group EBIT amounted to €8.6 billion (2011: €8.8 billion), and Group EBIT from the ongoing business amounted to €8.1 billion (2011: €9.0 billion). Net profit increased to €6.5 billion (2011: €6.0 billion), and value added rose to €4.2 billion (2011: €3.7 billion).

In view of the earnings achieved and the course of business in the year 2012, the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board recommended the distribution of a stable dividend of €2.20 per share (2011: €2.20). This represents a total dividend of approximately €2.35 billion or a distribution ratio of about 40%.

Affirmation of long-term strategy and goals
Zetsche formulated clear objectives for the Daimler Group: “We strive to be a sustainably competitive company that not only produces the S-Class, but which is the S-Class.” Daimler is pursuing the following specific targets of

  • selling at least 1.6 million Mercedes-Benz passenger cars each year as of 2015 and leading the way in the premium segment also in terms of unit sales by 2020,
  • consolidating its leading role in the truck sector by selling more than 500,000 units in 2015 and over 700,000 units in 2020, and
  • growing also in its other divisions.

In addition to the growth targets, the Group has corresponding profitability goals. In the medium term, it strives to achieve an average return on sales of 9 percent from its vehicle operations across all market and product cycles, with return targets for the individual divisions of 10% for Mercedes-Benz Cars, 8% for Daimler Trucks, 9% for Mercedes-Benz Vans and 6% for Daimler Buses. The target for Daimler Financial Services is a return on equity of 17%.

Growth strategies supplemented by efficiency programs
“In order to achieve those goals, we have started the biggest growth program in the company’s history: Daimler is growing — at a faster pace, on a broader scale, and in more markets than ever before,” explained Zetsche at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting.

The goals are to be achieved on the basis of far-reaching product offensives in all divisions, through expansion of the model ranges, the creation of new segments and close adaptation of products and services to regional customer requirements. Across all of its divisions, Daimler has focused on four strategic growth areas in recent years: strengthening the core business, penetrating new markets, expanding its leadership on green technologies and safety, and implementing new types of mobility concept supported by innovations at the interface between mobility and digital networking.

Zetsche emphasized, however: “We don’t want to grow at any price. Our growth has to be sustainably profitable.” To those ends, the growth strategies of the individual divisions have been supplemented with effective efficiency programs.

In the area of passenger cars, the Fit for Leadership efficiency program is an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz 2020 growth strategy. In the area of trucks, the Global Excellence Strategy that started in 2005 has been reinforced with the initiative Daimler Trucks Number One. Similar programs are in place at the other divisions: Performance Vans 2013 at Mercedes-Benz Vans, Globe 2013 at Daimler Buses and DFS 2020 at Daimler Financial Services. In total, this is expected to improve the Group’s cost position by €4 billion by the end of next year.

For 2013 and the following years, the focus is on the consistent implementation of the defined measures and programs. “The objective for this year is to stay the course, continue our growth and enhance our efficiency,” stated Zetsche.

Unit sales in 2013 – status quo and expectations
Many markets were weaker than expected at the beginning of 2013. That applies in particular to the markets for cars and commercial vehicles in Europe. Nonetheless, in the first three months of this year, the Group sold more cars, vans and buses than in the prior-year period.

First-quarter wholesale shipments by Mercedes-Benz Cars increased compared with last year by 1% (retail 3%). The division expects sales impetus from the very good demand for the compact-class models, as well as from the CLA, the third model in the compact class, the new E-Class and the new S-Class, which will have its world premiere in May. Despite the difficult first quarter, Mercedes-Benz Cars assumes that with expansion of the total car market of 2 to 4 percent, its wholesale shipments will increase in full-year 2013.

Daimler Trucks increased its market shares in the first three months of the year, although wholesale shipments decreased by 6%. Thanks to Daimler Trucks’ global spread and its strong, continuously growing product portfolio, the division anticipates slight growth in wholesale shipments as the year progresses. This development will be supported by the new truck for the construction sector, the Mercedes-Benz Arocs, and the new medium-duty truck, the Mercedes-Benz Atego.

First-quarter wholesale shipments by Mercedes-Benz Vans were slightly higher than in the prior-year period (+3%). The division expects growth impetus from the new generation of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which will be available as of mid-2013. In regional terms, growth prospects are varied: While demand for vans in Western Europe could continue to fall, the division anticipates a slight recovery in China as well as sales stimulus in North and Latin America.

Wholesale shipments by Daimler Buses were better than in the first quarter of last year (+23%). The division also expects an increase in wholesale shipments for the full year compared with 2012. In Europe, there will be contributions to this growth from the new Mercedes-Benz Tourismo and the new Setra TopClass 500. In Mexico, the launch of an all-new product family of five coach variants and city buses is being prepared.

The growth of the vehicle divisions is also reflected by the development of Daimler Financial Services: Its new business once again increased in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same period of last year. In 2013, the division intends to pass the mark of three million leasing and financing contracts for the first time. Daimler Financial Services sees considerable potential in the expansion of its business with innovative mobility services.

Not much tailwind is anticipated from the markets in the coming months. For Europe in particular, there are no signs of a trend reversal. Daimler will therefore reassess whether its previous market-related assumptions for 2013 are still valid and will provide further information regarding market and earnings expectations for the Group and its divisions for the full year in the first-quarter reporting.
Thanks to new products and the efficiency programs now running, Daimler assumes that earnings in the second half of the year will be higher than in the first half.

Zetsche is confident that these goals will be achieved: “The course we have set is the right one – but we have to follow it. And we will follow it – undeterred by the ups and downs of the markets. Consistently and persistently.”

Source: Daimler AG