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Foreign Automakers Feel Under the Gun in China

"Anti-monopoly" crackdown seen as boost for local competitors.

by on Sep.02, 2014

Daimler, which recently announced a joint venture with Chinese maker BYD, is under investigation by anti-monopoly regulators.

It’s the world’s largest automotive market, and manufacturers as diverse as Daimler AG and General Motors already sell more vehicles in China than they do in the U.S. But they and other foreign companies are beginning to wonder “at what price?”

Both GM and Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz — along with Audi, Chrysler and other carmakers — have come under investigation by China’s regulators, who have already levied more than $200 million in fines against a dozen Japanese auto parts suppliers for alleged price fixing.

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And while the country’s President Xi Jinping has promised to open up the Chinese economy to increased foreign competition, a new study reveals there’s growing concern that precisely the opposite is happening.

A full 60% of those who responded to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China said they feel “less welcome” in China. By comparison, only 41% responded that way a year ago.

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Surge in Sales Propels Daimler Profits

Revenues up 6% as demand grows for new S-Class, other models.

by on Jul.23, 2014

Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche during a recent product unveiling. Mercedes plans to launch 30 new models by the end of the decade.

Promising to regain its once-formidable lead as the world’s top luxury car manufacturer, Daimler AG has unleashed an unprecedented product assault that has begun gaining traction with consumers – driving a surge in second-quarter sales and earnings for the parent of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands.

With revenues up 6%, to $42.4 billion, Daimler posted a net profit of nearly $3 billion for the April to June period. But perhaps more telling was the fact that earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT, shot to 7.9% of revenue during the latest quarter, up from 6.4% a year earlier.

The Journal of Record!

“We are growing profitably, our strategy is bearing fruit,” said Daimler AG Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche in statement accompanying the earnings announcement. “We are very satisfied with the second quarter and continue to work effectively on structural improvements.”

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Smart Offers First Tease of New Fortwo and Forfour Models

Look for official launch in Paris later this year.

by on Jul.09, 2014

Daimler is providing a little glimpse at its Smart microcars, the Smart Fortwo and Forfour, in this rendering in advance of the Paris Motor Show.

After a seemingly endless delay, Daimler’s microcar division, Smart, is finally getting ready to roll out two all-new models that, it hopes, will pump some life into the struggling brand.

While we won’t get a first look at the sheet metal until the upcoming Paris Motor Show, Smart has offered some teaser images of the new Fortwo and Forfour models – some rough exterior renderings, as well as close-ups of a few interior and exterior details.

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We’ve also gotten a sense of what’s coming, not from Smart, but from Renault, the French automaker that partnered up with Daimler AG and has taken lead in the development of not just the two new Smart microcars, but also the Renault Twingo that made its own debut, last March, at the Geneva Motor Show. (more…)

Daimler Trucks Puts Autonomous Big Rig on the Road

German maker believes its self-driving semi will be ready by 2025.

by on Jul.03, 2014

Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard shows off Daimer Truck's Future Truck 2025 that uses the maker's Highway Pilot System to drive autonomously.

In the ‘70s classic movie, “Duel,” a seemingly driverless tanker truck terrorizes an innocent salesperson driving to his next call along a remote stretch of highway. Could a driverless big rig – minus the stalkerish behavior – be part of our future?

Daimler Trucks thinks so. In fact, it’s betting big on it and showed its ante with the introduction of its Future Truck 2025 earlier today in Germany. Using the truckmaker’s Highway Pilot system, the prototype semi-truck is capable of driving itself while hauling a full load at speeds exceeding 50 mph, according to the company.

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“The truck of the future is a Mercedes-Benz that drives itself.” Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, the member of Daimler’s Board of Management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, at the debut of the truck earlier today. (more…)

Daimler and Nissan to Partner on New Mexican Luxury Car Plant

New factory will produce both Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti models.

by on Jun.27, 2014

Nissan opened up its Aguascalientes plant last year. But it left plenty of room to expand once it locked down its joint venture with Daimler's Mercedes-Benz.

Nissan Motor Co. and Daimler AG will announce a significant expansion of their four-year-old alliance this morning, the two partners planning to set up a new plant in Aguascaliente, Mexico that will produce small luxury cars for the Japanese maker’s Infiniti brand and the German manufacturer’s Mercedes-Benz.

The project, first reported last year by TheDetroitBureau.com, takes the three-way partnership between Daimler, Nissan and French automaker Renault to a significant new level. The maker’s initially agreed to jointly produce engines and, among other things, develop a small car platform to be used for both Daimler’s Smart brand and as a replacement for the little Renault Twingo. Just this week, a new Nissan plant in Decherd, Tennessee launched production of engines for both the Infiniti and Mercedes brands.

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The new luxury car plant will be set up alongside an existing assembly line Nissan opened in the central Mexican city of Aguascalientes next year. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche has previously both confirmed they were discussing the possibility of a new joint production facility but insiders say it took longer than expected to work out the details.

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Smart Video Reveals Two New Models

Next-gen city cars will get even smaller.

by on May.08, 2014

The new Smart ForFour and ForTwo undergoing winter testing in Sweden.

Finally – but will anyone actually notice? That’s the question the folks at Smart, the microcar division of Daimler AG, have to be worrying about as, after much too long of a wait, they finally get ready to launch two all-new models.

And a new video posted on Youtube offers a first close-up look at the two only slightly camouflaged new products, the all-new ForFour, and the replacement for the Smart ForTwo.

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Both are shown undergoing winter testing in Sweden, a routine part of the product development process for most manufacturers.

How soon are they likely to come to market? Soon, it appears, Chief Engineer Markus Riedel telling the video crew both models are pretty much ready to be launched.

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New Products Drive Sharp Surge in Daimler Earnings

CLA, other line-up additions draw in new buyers for Mercedes brand.

by on Apr.30, 2014

Mad Men star Jon Hamm helped unveil the new S63 AMG 4Matic Coupe at the NY Auto Show.

With new models like the Mercedes-Benz CLA drawing in a new generation of buyers, the brand’s German parent Daimler AG reported its net profit nearly doubled during the first quarter.

The German maker had struggled to overcome a series of problems in recent years, notably including a slide in demand in China, but Mercedes’ rebound in that booming market further lifted the maker’s earnings to 1.086 billion Euros for the January to March quarter, or $1.498 billion, up from 564 million Euros a year earlier.

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“Our strategy is paying off,” said Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, “our investments are bearing fruit.”

In a statement accompanying its earnings, the maker predicted both revenues and earnings would “significantly increase” for all of 2014 as it gained ground in China while also boosting sales in more established markets like the U.S. and Europe.

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After Missteps, Daimler Hopes to Rebound in China

The faster it runs, the behinder it gets.

by on Apr.25, 2014

Officials from Daimler and BYD reveal the new Denza battery-car they jointly developed.

No issue has bedeviled Daimler AG more than China, where the company’s underwhelming performance lags archrivals BMW and Audi, which have used their successes with Chinese consumers to vault ahead of Mercedes-Benz in global sales.

Mercedes is hoping that this year’s Beijing Auto Show will serve as a tipping point, however, as it sets out to recapture some of the lost ground. Indeed, the China Daily suggested that Mercedes-Benz outspent its rivals at the crowded show this year in an effort to capture the attention of both the press and Chinese consumers.

Global Outlook!

Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler’s board of management, made the long journey to China after skipping the New York Auto Show, and Daimler hosted separate press conferences for its Mercedes-Benz and Sprinter brands, as well as a joint preview of a new electric vehicle it will build with Denza, one of its Chinese partners.

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Daimler Betting Big on Hydrogen Fuel Cells

China could be critical electric vehicle market, says CEO Zetsche.

by on Apr.10, 2014

The Mercedes-Benz F-Cell hydrogen car.

Daimler AG’s top executives believe hydrogen fuel cells hold the key to developing a broader range of electric vehicles in the future.

Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG’s top executive and head of the Mercedes-Benz Car Group, told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in Berlin the German automaker is committed to electric vehicle technology.  China, the world’s single largest car market, now has plans for putting millions of EVs on the road by the end of the decade.

Electrifying!

“With our Chinese partner BYD, we have developed an electric vehicle in China for China,” he said. The Denza, which was developed with BYD, will debut at the Beijing Auto Show later this month, he added.  “China plans to have five million electric vehicles on the road by 2020 and we’re ready to help,” Zetsche added.

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Daimler AG Expecting Banner Year for Cars, Trucks

Despite strong competition, Zetsche says ‘situation is good.’

by on Apr.09, 2014

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4Matic Coupe loses 140 pounds but gains 4x horsepower. It's vehicles like this that has Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche expecting a big year.

Daimler AG predicts a big increase in earnings this year despite intense competition from its rivals, Audi and BMW.

“We are beginning 2014 at the same pace with which we finished 2013,” Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler board of management and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting.

Clear the Air!

“We also review our plans critically,” he said. “But they seem to have been successful. We will keep our foot on the accelerator.” (more…)