Daimler AG continued along its successful path in the first three months of 2017 and systematically implemented its strategy for a sustainable positive development. With sales of 754,300 passenger cars and commercial vehicles, the Daimler Group once again achieved best-ever unit sales (2016: 683,900) in a first quarter. This was primarily driven by record sales by Mercedes-Benz Cars with 568,100 units (+14%) and Mercedes-Benz Vans with 86,800 units (+13%). Group revenue amounted to €38.8 billion, which is 11% higher than in the first quarter of last year. Adjusted for exchange-rate effects, revenue increased by 7%.

The Daimler Group achieved first-quarter EBIT of €4,008 million in 2017, thus substantially surpassing the prior-year figure of €2,148 million. Net profit doubled to €2,801 million (Q1 2016: €1,400 million). Net profit attributable to the shareholders of Daimler AG increased to €2,706 million (Q1 2016: €1,353 million), so earnings per share increased to €2.53 (Q1 2016: €1.26).

“A very successful quarter lies behind us,” stated Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “Ahead of us, we have a variety of opportunities for further profitable growth. We do have the right products to take advantage of these opportunities – and the financial strength to make the necessary investments. The latest example: our new S-class. Daimler remains on the fast lane.”

Mercedes-Benz Cars achieved particularly strong earnings growth. Its EBIT growth is mainly the result of increased unit sales of the new E-Class and the SUV models. The Daimler Trucks division significantly improved its earnings, primarily due to the sale of real estate in Japan. Mercedes-Benz Vans and Daimler Buses also achieved significantly higher EBIT than in the prior-year period. At Daimler Financial Services, earnings grew significantly mainly as a result of increased contract volume. Exchange-rate effects had a positive impact on operating profit at all the divisions.

“We made a very good start to the year and once again surpassed our margin targets in the automotive business,” said Bodo Uebber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Finance & Controlling and Daimler Financial Services. “We are very confident for the remainder of the year to achieve our financial as well as our strategic goals. At the same time, we are constantly aware of the political and economic challenges and will continue to act flexibly and cautiously.”

Free cash flow and net liquidity
In the first quarter of 2017, the free cash flow of the industrial business amounted to a cash inflow of €1.9 billion (Q1 2016: €0.3 billion). This increase resulted primarily from the positive business performance and the development of working capital. The figure reflects a cash inflow of €0.3 billion from the sale of real estate at the Kawasaki site in Japan as well as higher supplier liabilities for seasonal reasons.

Compared with December 31, 2016, the net liquidity of the industrial business increased by €1.3 billion to €21.1 billion. The increase was mainly due to the positive free cash flow. Opposing effects resulted in particular from the capital increase at Daimler Financial Services AG.

The Daimler Group once again utilized attractive conditions in the international money and capital markets for refinancing in the first quarter of 2017. In the first three months of this year, Daimler had a cash inflow of €6.7 billion from the issuance of bonds (Q1 2016: €7.3 billion). The redemption of bonds resulted in cash outflows of €4.8 billion (Q1 2016: €2.6 billion). A large proportion of the issuance volume was carried out in the form of so-called benchmark bonds (bonds with high nominal values). At the beginning of January, Daimler Finance North America LLC issued bonds with three-, five- and ten-year maturities in the US capital market with a total volume of US$3.0 billion. In February, Daimler AG issued an eight-year bond of €1.25 billion in the European capital market. In addition, multiple smaller issuances were undertaken in various countries. Among other things, Daimler AG issued a one-year bond with a volume of RMB3.0 billion in the Chinese capital market in March.

At the end of the first quarter of 2017, the Daimler Group had 285,810 employees worldwide (end of 2016: 282,488, end of March 2016: 285,992). Of that total, 171,084 were employed in Germany (end of 2016: 170,034) and 22,728 in the United States (end of 2016: 21,857). The consolidated companies in China had 3,782 employees at the end of March (end of 2016: 3,696).

Details of the divisions
Mercedes-Benz Cars’ unit sales increased by 14% to 568,100 vehicles in the first quarter. The car division thus set a new record in the reporting period, with best-ever unit sales for the first three months of a year in total and in Europe (+ 8%), China (+43%), Canada (+17%) and Mexico (+18%). The success in Europe was supported by double-digit growth and sales records among others in the United Kingdom (+13%), Belgium (+13%) and Sweden (+13%). In the German market, the division achieved growth of 6%. Mercedes-Benz Cars increased its unit sales also in the United States (+2%).

The car division’s first-quarter revenue increased by 14% to €22.7 billion and its EBIT of €2,234 million was substantially higher than the €1,395 posted in the prior-year period. Return on sales was 9.8% (Q1 2016: 7.0%). The very positive sales development of the new E-Class and the SUV models boosted earnings growth in the first quarter of 2017. Positive exchange-rate effects and the non-cash income effect of €183 million in connection with new investors in HERE also had a favorable impact on EBIT. There were opposing effects from advance expenditure for new technologies and future products.

In the first quarter of this year, sales by Daimler Trucks of 94,000 vehicles were 11% lower than in the prior-year period. Unit sales increased compared with the prior-year period in the EU30 region (European Union, Switzerland and Norway; Q1 2017: 17,400 units; +12%) and in Germany (Q1 2017: 6,500 units; +17%). In Turkey, unit sales decreased to 1,300 vehicles in a very difficult market environment (Q1 2016: 1,800). In the NAFTA region, the market adjustment in the segment of heavy-duty trucks had an impact on the division’s sales, which dropped significantly to 32,900 units (Q1 2016: 40,400). In Latin America, Daimler Trucks increased its sales to 6,300 units (Q1 2016: 6,000). While sales in Brazil decreased to 2,400 units (-15%) due to the country’s difficult economic situation, there was strong growth in unit sales in Argentina (+114%). In Asia, sales were lower than in the prior-year quarter. Unit sales decreased in the Middle East by 30%, in Indonesia by 2%, in Japan by 6% and in India by 7%. However, the joint venture BFDA in China achieved significant growth with sales of 26,400 Auman trucks (+54%).

The division’s revenue amounted to €7.9 billion (Q1 2016: €8.2 billion). Its first-quarter EBIT of €668 million was higher than the prior-year figure of €516 million. Return on sales was 8.4% (Q1 2016: 6.3%). The division’s earnings increased primarily due to a gain of €267 million on the sale of real estate by Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC) at the Kawasaki site in Japan. Further efficiency enhancements and currency translation also had positive effects on EBIT. Lower unit sales in the NAFTA region had a negative impact on earnings.

Mercedes-Benz Vans increased its unit sales by 13% to 86,800 vehicles – a new record in a first quarter. In its core EU30 region, the van division achieved growth of 12%. Growth was particularly strong in the United Kingdom (+21%), Spain (+26%), Belgium (+30%) and Italy (+34%). In the important German market, Mercedes-Benz Vans achieved a new record of 21,000 units sold (+9%). In the NAFTA region, however, unit sales decreased by 17%. Strong growth was achieved in Latin America (+56%), with a contribution from the significant market recovery in Argentina. The division’s position continued to improve also in China, where unit sales nearly tripled compared with the prior-year period.

Revenue increased by 6% compared with the prior-year quarter to €3.0 billion. The division’s EBIT of €357 million significantly surpassed the prior-year level of €301 million. Return on sales was 11.9%, compared with 10.7% in the first quarter of last year. EBIT reflects the very positive development of unit sales, especially in Europe, China and South America. Furthermore, the development of exchange rates had a positive impact on earnings. However, earnings were negatively affected by higher expenses from advance expenditure for new technologies and future products.

Daimler Buses’ unit sales increased by 12% to 5,400 units in the first three months of 2017. In the EU30 region, 1,400 complete buses and bus chassis of the Mercedes-Benz and Setra brands were sold (-11%). The division maintained its market leadership in Germany, the domestic market, with a 6% increase in unit sales. Due to the currently difficult situation in Turkey, sales there of 90 units were well below the level of the prior-year period (Q1 2016: 160). However, in Latin America (excluding Mexico), Daimler Buses increased its unit sales by 11% to 2,400 chassis, although the market situation in Brazil remained difficult. In Mexico, 36% more units were sold than in the prior-year quarter. There was positive sales impetus from Asia, where a total of 500 units were sold (Q1 2016: 200), with tripling in India (Q1 2017: 190; Q1 2016: 60 units) and doubling to 250 units in Indonesia.

Revenue of €0.9 billion was significantly higher due to the growth in unit sales (Q1 2016: €0.8 billion). Daimler Buses’ first-quarter EBIT of €65 million was also substantially higher than the prior-year figure of €39 million. Return on sales was 7.2% (Q1 2016: 4.7%). As well as a better structure mix in Europe, earnings were boosted by positive exchange-rate effects. This more than offset the reduction in earnings due to lower unit sales in Turkey.

Daimler Financial Services achieved growth in new business also in the first quarter of 2017. Worldwide, approximately 447,000 new leasing and financing contracts were concluded with a total volume of €16.8 billion, which is 23% more than in the prior-year period. Contract volume reached €135.0 billion at the end of March and was thus slightly above the level of year-end 2016. Adjusted for exchange-rate effects, contract volume grew by 2%. Approximately 468,000 contracts were brokered in the insurance business, which is 21% more than in the first quarter of 2016. In the field of mobility services, car2go further strengthened its market leadership for car sharing and had a total of 2.3 million customers worldwide by the end of the first quarter.

The division’s EBIT of €524 million was significantly higher than the €432 million posted in the prior-year period. This positive development was mainly the result of increased contract volume with an unchanged low cost of risk.

The reconciliation of the divisions’ EBIT to Group EBIT comprises gains at the corporate level and the effects on earnings of eliminating intra-group transactions between the divisions. Items at the corporate level resulted in income of €169 million in the first quarter of 2017 (Q1 2016: expense of €519 million). This primarily reflects the reversal of an impairment of Daimler’s equity investment in BAIC Motor by an amount of €240 million in the first quarter of this year. In the prior-year quarter, EBIT was reduced by the impairment by €244 million of the equity investment in BAIC Motor and losses of €222 million from currency transactions which are not allocated to business operations. The elimination of intra-group transactions resulted in an expense of €9 million in the first quarter of 2017 (Q1 2016: expense of €16 million).

Investment in the future
In the first quarter of 2017, €1.3 billion was invested worldwide, in particular at the production and assembly sites for new products and technologies and for the expansion and modernization of the production facilities. The sites in Germany accounted for €0.9 billion of capital expenditure (December 31, 2016: €0.9 billion). Research and development spending increased to €2.1 billion (Q1 2016: €1.7 billion).

Outlook for the markets
The outlook for the world economy continues to be favorable at the beginning of the second quarter of 2017, so global growth could accelerate slightly this year. Recent forecasts for full-year 2017 are at the upper end of a range of 2.5 to 3%.

According to recent assessments, worldwide demand for cars is likely to increase from its already high level by 1 to 2% in 2017. Only slight growth is expected for the Chinese market after tax incentives for cars with small engines were reduced this year. The US market for cars and light trucks should about maintain last year’s unusually high level of more than 17 million units sold. Slight growth is anticipated for the European car market. Demand in Western Europe is likely to increase only slightly following the strong recovery in 2016. In Russia, a moderate recovery from a low level can be assumed, which should ensure slight growth in Eastern Europe overall. Demand from the Japanese market is anticipated in the magnitude of the previous year and significant growth is expected in India.

With respect to demand for trucks in the NAFTA region, Daimler expects a continuation of the cyclical market slow-down. An overall decrease in the magnitude of 5% is to be expected in classes 6-8, and an even more substantial weakening of demand is anticipated in the segment of heavy-duty trucks (class 8). Nonetheless, it is assumed that the market will gradually stabilize as the year progresses.

Demand in the EU30 region is expected to remain close to the solid prior-year level. In the Brazilian market, it is to be assumed that truck sales will once again decrease slightly from the extremely weak prior-year level. Following the dramatic slump in demand in Turkey last year, another significant decrease is to be expected. The Russian market should recover significantly. In China, a normalization of demand is anticipated after the very lively start to the year, which should lead to a slight increase in market volume in the full year. The most important Asian markets from Daimler’s perspective are likely to develop disparately in 2017. In Japan, demand for light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks is likely to remain stable at a solid level. The overall Indonesian truck market should be slightly above its level of 2016, following several years of significant contraction. In India, slight growth in the market for medium- and heavy-duty trucks is anticipated.

For the year 2017, stable demand for small vans and a slight increase in demand for mid-size and large vans is expected in the EU30 region. In the United States, demand for large vans should remain fairly stable. The market for mid-size and large vans in Latin America should revive again significantly in 2017, but from a very low level. In China, more lively demand is anticipated in the market the division addresses there.

The bus market in the EU30 region is expected to grow slightly compared with 2016. Market developments in Latin America continue to be negatively affected by the current economic situation in Argentina and Brazil. Following the significant declines of recent years, it is assumed that the market bottomed out in the year 2016. So a significant recovery is anticipated in 2017, especially in Brazil, although the market volume will remain very low.

Outlook for the divisions
On the basis of the assumptions presented above on the development of the markets important for the Group and of the division’s current assessments, Daimler now expects to significantly increase its total unit sales in the year 2017.

In 2017, Mercedes-Benz Cars is continuing along its successful path of record year 2016 and aims to defend its leadership of the premium segment. After once again achieving the highest revenue in the Group’s history in a first quarter, the division aims to significantly increase its unit sales from a high level and to set another record in 2017. This will be driven at the Mercedes-Benz brand primarily by the GLC and the GLC Coupe, as well as by the new GLA and the new E-Class Coupe, which, along with the new E-Class Cabriolet presented in March and the E-Class All-Terrain, represent the complete renewal of the E-Class family. And as of the second quarter, demand will be additionally boosted by the roadster version of the Mercedes-AMG GT, which has been launched in time for the 50th anniversary of the performance brand of Mercedes-Benz Cars. smart will also make a significant contribution to the sales success of Mercedes-Benz Cars with the electric versions available as of this summer.

Daimler Trucks assumes that its total unit sales in 2017 will be in the magnitude of the previous year. That applies also to unit sales in the NAFTA region, where the strong market position is expected to continue. This will be aided by the new Freightliner Cascadia, the flagship in the North American market, which has been in production since the beginning of this year. In the EU30 region as well as in Japan, unit sales are anticipated in the magnitude of last year. Unit sales in Brazil are expected to be close to the very low level of 2016. Unit sales in India should increase, however.

Mercedes-Benz Vans now plans to achieve significant growth in unit sales in 2017. The division now anticipates significant increases in sales of vans also in the EU30 region. In the context of the strategy for the division, »Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global«, the V-Class multipurpose vehicle and the Vito van were launched in 2016 also in China, the world’s biggest market for motor vehicles. This will additionally boost demand there in 2017. The division aims to achieve additional growth also with the Sprinter, which will be produced also in North America in the future. And towards the end of this year, Mercedes Vans will enter the midsize-pickup segment with the X-Class to further increase its worldwide unit sales in the long term.

Daimler Buses assumes that it will be able to defend its market leadership in its traditional core markets for buses above 8 tons with innovative, future-oriented and high-quality products. For the year 2017, the bus division anticipates significantly higher unit sales than in the previous year, with a moderate increase in the EU30 region. After the substantial decrease in unit sales in Brazil last year, a significant recovery is expected in 2017, but still at a very low level. In Mexico, a significant decrease in unit sales is now anticipated.

Daimler Financial Services anticipates significant growth in new business and further growth in contract volume in the year 2017. This will be driven by the sales development of the automotive divisions, especially Mercedes-Benz Cars. In addition, the division is utilizing new market potentials especially in Asia, and is applying new and digital possibilities for customer contacts – in particular by systematically further developing its online sales channels. Daimler Financial Services continues to see good growth opportunities also in the field of innovative mobility services.

Outlook for Daimler
Daimler assumes that Group revenue will increase significantly in the year 2017. On the basis of their significant growth in unit sales, the Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler Buses, and Daimler Financial Services divisions expect significantly higher revenues than in 2016. Daimler anticipates slight revenue growth for the Mercedes-Benz Vans division and revenue in the magnitude of 2016 for the Daimler Trucks division. In regional terms, Daimler expects the strongest growth in Asia and Europe.

On the basis of expected market developments and the current assessments of the divisions, Daimler now assumes that Group EBIT will increase significantly in 2017.

The individual divisions have the following expectations for EBIT in the year 2017:

  • Mercedes-Benz Cars: significantly above the prior-year level,
  • Daimler Trucks: slightly below the prior-year level,
  • Mercedes-Benz Vans: slightly below the prior-year level,
  • Daimler Buses: slightly above the prior-year level, and
  • Daimler Financial Services: slightly above the prior-year level.

The anticipated development of earnings in the automotive divisions will have a positive impact on the free cash flow of the industrial business also in the year 2017. Despite a further increase in advance expenditure for new products and technologies, the free cash flow from the industrial business should be slightly above the level of 2016, and thus higher than the dividend distribution in 2017.

Against the backdrop of further efficiency improvements in the context of the medium- and long-term programs for the structural improvement of business processes, Daimler assumes that its ambitious growth targets can be achieved with only a slight increase in the size of the workforce.

Other important events
In early April, Bosch and Daimler agreed on a development cooperation in order to introduce fully automated and driverless vehicles in urban environments by the beginning of the next decade. The objective is to jointly develop software and algorithms for an autonomous driving system. With fully automated driverless vehicles in urban environments, Bosch and Daimler want to improve traffic flows in cities, increase safety on the roads and make an important contribution for the traffic of the future.

Mercedes-Benz Cars is taking the next step in the implementation of its electric offensive. The first series-produced model of the new EQ product brand is to drive off the assembly line at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Bremen by the end of this decade. The Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen will also produce electric vehicles of the EQ brand, and will thus be developed into a competence center for battery-electric models of the large and luxury class. Future EQ models are to be integrated into series production at the existing Mercedes-Benz plants on four continents. The new electric vehicles will be based on an architecture specially developed for battery-electric models, which is scalable in every respect and can be applied across the product range. The decision on where within the production network to produce further EQ models will be made depending on demand. In this context, Mercedes-Benz is taking another step in the modernization of the plant in Untertürkheim (Stuttgart) as the lead plant for the powertrain production network. The company’s management and labor council have reached an agreement setting the conditions for ongoing growth with conventional drive systems while preparing for entry into electric mobility. The measures agreed upon will make a long-term contribution towards safeguarding jobs at the site in Untertürkheim.

In February, Mercedes-Benz Trucks announced that it will launch a small series of the world’s first fully electric, heavy-duty distribution truck before the end of this year. Following the positive customer response to the presentation last fall of the Urban eTruck with 25 tons gross vehicle weight and a range of up to 200 kilometers, the first vehicles will be delivered this year to customers in the fields of waste disposal, food and logistics. This is an important step on the way to full-scale series production, which Mercedes-Benz Trucks plans for the year 2020. And a small series of the light-duty Fuso eCanter electric truck will also be launched globally in 2017. Approximately 150 vehicles will be delivered to selected customers in Europe, Japan and the United States. In this way, Daimler Trucks is covering a broad application portfolio of electric trucks worldwide.

Daimler AG announced in February 2017 that it plans to expand its global production network and will produce Mercedes-Benz cars for the first time in Russia. At a new plant in the Esipovo Industrial Park, about 40 kilometers northwest of Moscow, SUVs and the E-Class sedan are to be produced flexibly for regional requirements. The company will invest more than €250 million in the new production facility. The first vehicles are to drive off the assembly lines in 2019. This new car plant in the Moscow region will include all production stages from body shop to paint shop and assembly. It will create more than 1,000 new jobs, while suppliers and service providers in the region will also require additional employees. Approximately 20 kilometers from the planned plant, Daimler put a new after-sales wholesale facility into operation for the Russian market last year.

Mercedes-Benz is continuing its successful cooperation with Valmet Automotive. The Finnish contract manufacturer will produce vehicles also of the next generation of compact cars at its plant in Uusikaupunki. The current A-Class has been produced there since 2013, and this contract has been extended until the end of 2017 due to strong demand. The A-Class is flexibly produced on one assembly line in Uusikaupunki together with the GLC. Production of the mid-size SUV was started at Valmet Automotive in February 2017.

Mercedes-Benz Vans is investing US$150 million in the next years to produce the next generation of the Sprinter large van in Argentina. Preparations are being made for the start of production at that plant and at other Sprinter plants around the world. Worldwide production of the model will gradually be started at the various plants by the end of this decade. In connection with producing the next-generation Sprinter, Mercedes-Benz Vans will create more than 500 additional jobs at its plant in Argentina, where it currently employs approximately 2,300 people.

Early this year, Daimler Financial Services acquired PayCash Europe SA, an electronic payments provider, thus entering the e-payment business. This will enable Daimler to offer its own electronic payments service under the brand name Mercedes pay. Mercedes pay will provide customers with a technically simple and secure method of payment for digital services.

In order to prepare the traditional financing and leasing business for digital sales structures, Daimler Financial Services continued to invest in the customer-focused app for comparing car financing, AutoGravity, which is now offered in 46 states of the USA. Customers can select vehicles from various manufacturers online together with binding financing offers.

Source: Daimler AG