September 18, 2012 / 2:53 PM / in 6 years

North America lifts Daimler truck sales as rivals flag

HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - North American and Russian markets drove Daimler’s (DAIGn.DE) commercial truck sales a fifth higher in the eight months ended August, while German peers MAN SE (MANG.DE) and Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) van division struggled with weak European demand.

Stuttgart-based Daimler, the world’s biggest truckmaker, saw sales of heavy-duty vehicles to the United States, Canada and Mexico surge by 27 percent and by more than 80 percent in Russia over the period, offsetting slowing deliveries in Europe.

Conversely MAN, which lacks a north American presence, said global year-to-date sales totaled between 90,000 and 100,000, slightly lower than a year ago.

VW, meanwhile, said it sold 5.6 percent more vans worldwide and it was considering entering more lucrative overseas markets.

“Daimler’s vast global reach is proving a boon in increasingly difficult times,” said Stefan Bratzel, head of the Centre of Automotive Management think tank near Cologne.

“Regional weaknesses demonstrate how important it is for truckmakers to have an international presence.”

Slowing world economies and governments’ push for austerity are curbing demand from freight transporters and construction companies.

    Truck markets may slow between 15 and 20 percent in Europe this year, as much as 20 percent in Brazil and about 12 percent in China, a study by business consultants Alix Partners showed earlier this month.

    “The remainder of the year will be even more challenging (than the first six months),” Eckhard Scholz, head of VW’s commercial-vehicle division, told Reuters. “We’re operating in an increasingly tough environment.”

    MAN said on July 31 it would produce between 5 and 10 percent fewer trucks in Europe this year and freeze hirings to rein in costs.

    Scholz said on Tuesday he too could not rule out production cut-backs should the weakness in demand persist.

    Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Mark Potter

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