Daimler exceeds expectations

What Voith says, it does

The Daimler stand is always a highlight of the IAA. And the 2010 event was no different…

Daimler is the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles, a title it carries with pride. As such, we expected the “leading manufacturer” to bowl us over at the IAA, which is exactly what the company did. In fact, it went completely above and beyond. The Daimler stand consisted of three major brands, a pageant of innovations, over 60 trucks, vans buses and coaches. It was an unmistakably grand gesture, clearly aimed at showing the public, as well as other manufacturers, how well things are going.

The presentation, named “Trucks for the World”, featured trucks, vans and hybrids from three different continents. It wasn’t so much a new show, but rather a declaration that Daimler is hell-bent on taking over the trucking world!

The star of the show in terms of the Mercedes-Benz family of vehicles was the new generation Vito van. It is powered by a new four-cylinder diesel engine, coupled with a six-speed transmission, which develops between 70 kW and 120 kW and reduces fuel consumption significantly. The Vito has grown in size as well, so expect it to carry bigger payloads when it arrives in South Africa.

Daimler exceeds expectationsIn terms of new trucks, Mercedes stole the show with the new Atego and Axor trucks. The 2011 Atego and BlueTec Hybrid immediately grabbed the headlines by being announced as 12-tonner Truck of the Year for 2011. Commercial vehicle journalists from 23 European countries voted in this competition. The jury called it a “highly variable all-round talent, ideal for short-radius distribution work.” The BlueTec Hybrid has the potential to cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 10 – 15% in short-radius distribution. According to Mercedes-Benz, the jury was impressed at how the system was paving the way for alternative drive options.

Don’t see anything you like? How about a custom tailored truck to suit your specific needs. Mercedes-Benz realised long ago that even among the broad range of series production trucks available, a customer may not always find the precise vehicle to suit their requirements. This is when Mercedes-Benz Custom Tailored Trucks steps in. The big announcement from their side was the broadening of its range with vehicles based on the Actros and Atego. The new Actros Lowliner, Actros crewcab and Atego half-cab will make a valuable contribution to the already impressive portfolio.

The Mitsubishi FUSO brand also had a strong presence at the show. It brightened the shadow cast by Mercedes-Benz with the world premiere of the Canter E-cell, Canter Eco-Hybrid and Canter Euro 5 with EEV (Enhanced Environmentally friendly Vehicle), standard on all variants.

The battery-electric driven Canter E-cell is probably the most important of these models. The unit displayed at IAA was a one-off example to show the possibilities of modern technology. If nothing else, it definitely represents the next step toward zero-emission mobility in commercial vehicles.

The batteries are accommodated within the chassis frame and boast a capacity of 40 kW. More than enough to power the 3.5 ton Canter for 120 kilometres. This may not sound like much, but research has shown that it exceeds the daily mileage recorded for urban distribution.

Daimler exceeds expectationsNot to say that this one-off model is the be all and end all of eco-friendly commercial vehicles. Almost 1 000 examples of the Canter Eco-Hybrid are already doing service on the roads of Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and Ireland. We hope that this particular model will find its way to the shores of South Africa eventually…

The third and final brand that proudly displayed its products is Setra. It claims to have set a new benchmark for passenger seats. Now that may not sound like much, but remember that Setra is in the bus and coach manufacturing game. When it comes to carrying passengers, seats are of the utmost importance.

These new seats offer a substantial reduction in weight and come in various colours and materials. They can also be used in various applications to fit the needs of any passengers. You can have small, lightweight seats for passenger liners and big, leather covered ones for the more upmarket commuter. Not only do they work a charm, but they reduce the weight of the liner as well.

In the engine department we find a multitude of changes too. A new six-cylinder engine fully complies with the requirements set by the EEV standard, currently the most stringent voluntary emissions standard.

Setra also took the chance to remind us why it’s so popular in the first place. The TopClass 400 (with new comfort features), ComfortClass 400 and the versatile MultiClass 400 were on display.

If there was one central theme to the entire display, it was definitely the reduction of harmful emissions. All three brands made a big fuss over the steps they took individually, but also how these steps influence the company as a whole. As it stands at the moment, no other commercial vehicle manufacturer is as far along the line as Daimler. A brave statement to make, but one completely backed up by the figures.

At the moment there are about 300 000 trucks operating with BlueTec technology worldwide, along with 25 000 buses and coaches. The technology is being implemented in Japan, America, Europe and even in South Africa, where Imperial Logistics Refrigerated Services has four trucks with BlueTec on test.

Daimler does, however, know that BlueTec is not the final answer to the ever-present emission reduction question. Development on alternative drive systems is also under way. No fewer than 14 000 trucks, vans, buses and coaches around the world are currently running on alternative drive systems. Daimler is obviously under the impression that electricity is not the only option for the future.

We also have to compliment Daimler on the strategies the company is following on its quest for alternative fuel sources. The engineers have not simply stormed ahead and fitted various engines to whatever was closest to the garage door. No, they followed a smarter route. The collection of alternative fuel sources were studied to see what their positive and negative attributes were. They were then coupled to whichever model best suited their characteristics.

In conclusion, it was great to see that busness at Daimler is on the up! Sales at Daimler Trucks were around one-third higher through August 2010 than they were during the recession of 2009. The biggest growth was posted in Latin America (68%), Indonesia (76%) and Eastern Europe (129%). These figures do come from a very low level of sales in 2009, but they remain impressive nonetheless. “These figures make us optimistic. Our incoming orders for August are up by 65% – this shows that the figures are not a temporary phenomenon,” noted Andreas Renschler, Daimler board of management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses.

Daimler expects the global truck market to strengthen further by the end of the year. It forecasts growth of 5 – 10% in Europe, 10 – 15% in the NAFTA region and about 20 – 30% in Japan. With these types of figures there is just no way the coffers will run empty.

Daimler may have brought out the big guns at the IAA show. But the research, innovation and new products emanating from this enormously successful company demonstrate that Daimler is certainly not just all show.

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