Karin Radstrom, hired this year from rival Scania to repair Daimler Truck operations in Europe and Latin America, said the company was spending too much energy on sophisticated engineering that customers were unwilling to pay.
“To some extent, we have lost touch with our customers,” Ms. Radstrom said during the presentation Thursday.
As with passenger cars, truck-making dinosaurs like Scania, a unit of Volkswagen, or Paccar, truck-maker Kenworth and Peterbilt, face new competitors trying to exploit the transition to electric technology.
Arizona-based truck startup Nikola was briefly worth over $ 20 billion on the stock market. But its shares have lost three-quarters of their value since founder Trevor Milton resigned last year over accusations he made numerous false claims about the company’s hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Nikola has at least demonstrated how eager investors are to put their money in hydrogen trucks. Another example is Hyzon, a fuel cell manufacturer based in Rochester, NY, which has started offering complete trucks and buses. In February, Hyzon was acquired by Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corporation, a so-called PSPC that raises funds before they have assets.
Tesla unveiled a design for a battery-powered semi-trailer in 2017, which the company said it would start delivering this year. Tesla, Scania and some other truck makers are skeptical of hydrogen technology, which they see as too expensive and less energy efficient.
Traditional truck manufacturers like Daimler and Volvo have certain advantages over start-ups. Truck buyers tend to be transport companies or practical drivers who carefully calculate maintenance costs and fuel consumption before making a decision. Managers of large fleets may also be reluctant to take a chance on a builder without extensive experience.