At the beginning of the 21st century, Freightliner was an inward looking organisation and only beginning to become aware of the global implications of the development of the Daimler Group.
Martin Daum, is the Chairman of the Board of Management at Daimler Truck, basically the global chief when it comes to Daimler Trucks. He talks about looking back at why the original design for the Freightliner Cascadia was conceived and designed solely for the North American market.
From 2009, Daum was President and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America and was involved in the process of getting the Cascadia redesigned with one of the aspects being to make it able to be introduced into Australia. This was going to be a major project and had to wait for a major redesign of the US Cascadia, which was completed and launched in 2016.
“It comes down to having the guts to make the investment,” says Roger Nielsen, current President and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America. “If I go back to making the right hand drive version of Columbia or even the Coronado, you wouldn’t find us spending more than one single digit million dollars. And you saw that impact, the low investment and low volume tooling that went into those products. This resulted in trucks which didn’t meet all of the expectations of our customers.
“But now to go out and spend $100 million to tool the new Cascadia up properly and to keep it configured at the same level as the American configurations. That allows us to get that truck durable from its arrival on day one and it allows us to keep pace with everything else as it changes on the Cascadia, going forward.
“Australian products are no longer this unique special project which has to be justified by itself. The team in Australia are going to have a hard time keeping up with the pace of changes we are making in America to make the truck more durable.”
It was the change in philosophy brought in by Martin Daum after 2010 which saw a change in outlook and in 2016 the process of developing the Cascadia to be released here began. The cabin had been reshaped to allow it to handle left and right hand drive options.
“Cascadia fits perfectly into our worldwide strategy and focus,” says Martin. “We want to have global innovation and local customisation. Innovation, these days is expensive. We are testing the limits of physics and that is important when it comes to fuel efficiency and reliability.
“You need the scale that a market like Australia does not have, you need a global scale. Even the US on its own is not enough to sustain the technology that we need these days. Europe, alone, wouldn’t be big enough to sustain the technology we have in Actros. It takes big markets, 300,000 markets, that shoulder the enormous investments we make every year and pour into those products and technology.
“We spend 1.4 billion Euros ($2.3 billion) every year in research and development. So you need the volume to carry that enormous annual investment. Out of that you get the finest technology, which drives reliability, fuel efficiency, safety, connectivity. there are so many things you can do with electronics and push it even further.”
As a result of this kind of investment, any new technology will go though a process to ensure it will be possible to be used across all of Daimler’s brands, including Freightliner, Mercedes Benz and Fuso.
“On the other side of the coin we are fully aware that every market has its own special requirements,” says Martin. “Australia has the road trains, the dusty roads in the outback. Every country has their own regulations and traditions for its drivers, things they like and dislike.
“In every market we are in we want to be as close as possible to the local customer, because we want to serve those who keep that particular country moving. We want to be Americans in America, Germans in Germany, Indians in India and Australians in Australia. We always have strong local management in place.”