DaimlerChrysler said on Monday that it was counting on new products and greater parts sharing to raise the division’s profits this year in the face of stagnant demand, Reuters reported.

According to the news agency, the company said its new Actros heavy duty truck, which went into production at its Woerth plant in southern Germany on Monday, would help boost the unit’s performance this year, even though the weak market conditions of 2002 were showing no sign of abating.

“The commercial vehicle sector simply cannot count on support from the international markets in 2003,” Eckhard Cordes, head of DaimlerChrysler’s truck unit, told Reuters,reiterating comments made earlier this year.

Cordes, who expects the European market to be roughly flat this year, told Reuters he was unable to predict the effect the war in Iraq may have on business this year.

“I don’t know. Anything I say would be speculation and we cannot say what the effect will be,” he said at a press conference.

Reuters noted that DaimlerChrysler, emerging from restructuring at several of its truck businesses, has said it aims to lift operating profit at its commercial vehicle arm this year from 2002’s level of 176 million euros ($US187 million) as it continues to cut costs. It expects revenue and unit sales to be roughly flat.

According to Reuters, DaimlerChrysler, whose truck division includes Freightliner in the US, Setra buses and Mercedes Benz trucks and vans, said it aimed to sell about 24,000 of the new Actros trucks this year as well as some of the older version, bringing the total to around 40,000 – about the same level as last year. The commercial vehicle unit sold about 485,000 trucks, vans and buses last year, including 212,000 trucks, Reuters added.

The news agency quoted Cordes as saying he aimed to increase cost savings by greater part sharing between commercial vehicles.
“The primary goal is to standardise vehicles, components and parts to the greatest extent possible and deploy them on a global scale,” Cordes reportedly said.

He cited as an example that Freightliner and Mercedes Benz would in future have a common electronic architecture, Reuters said.