DaimlerChrysler’s commercial vehicles division head, Eckhard Cordes, is basing his hopes for a recovery on the North American market as European truck sales remain subdued.

“Now it looks as if the (North American) market is starting to grow again,” the head of the world’s largest truck and bus manufacturer said in an interview with Reuters, adding: “We expected 220,000 heavy trucks to be sold there in 2005, but this could already be achieved in 2004.”

The news agency said Cordes, whose trucks unit returned to profit last year after hefty cost cutting, said the worst was over for the European commercial vehicle market but that he only expected slight growth there in 2004.

Even without support from the economy, Cordes is predicting higher operating earnings at the division in 2004, while a return on net assets goal of 13% will likely first be reached in the following year, the report added.

“If the market grows we have a good chance to make the 13% by 2005,” Cordes told Reuters, referring to DaimlerChrysler’s commercial vehicles division, which in 2003 had a return on net assets of 10.6%.

After a lengthy struggle to purchase a 50% stake in Hyundai‘s truck business, Cordes reportedly said the deal was no longer a must.

“The strategic sense of it is still there, but the strategic necessity has declined following our progress in China and in Japan,” he told Reuters.

With added revenues from Japan’s Fuso, in which DaimlerChrysler owns 65%, commercial vehicle sales are expected to grow to $43.7 billion this year from $35 billion in 2003 and to contribute positively to earnings, Cordes reportedly said.

The trucks unit last year accounted for 21% of total group revenues and 15% of DaimlerChrysler’s operating profit, Reuters noted.

Asked by the news agency if an initial public offering for Fuso was on the agenda, Cordes said: “Under certain circumstances, I could imagine this.”