Freightliner head shares positive outlook for ’05

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Saying he expects “another big year in 2005, with the industry ramping up to full capacity,” Rainer Schmueckle, Freightliner Group president and CEO, predicted 2005 NAFTA Class 8 sales of 298,000 units, up 19 percent over 2004. At a Mid-America Trucking Show pre-show press conference Thursday, Schmueckle projected medium-duty sales at 190,000 units, an 18 percent increase over 2004.

Looking ahead to 2007 trucks featuring the new, lower-emissions engines, “there is some speculation that instead of scrambling to meet demand, we’ll be cutting production,” Schmueckle said, referring to the possibility of another sharp drop-off in truck sales similar to what the industry experienced following the introduction of the 2002 engines. “I’m here to tell you that these dismal forecasts don’t have to come true. I don’t believe the industry has the capacity to accommodate a pre-buy.”

Schmueckle attributed his positive outlook to confidence in the economy and in Freightliner’s technological solution for meeting the lower 2007 emissions regulations. “Our preparation is way ahead of 2002,” he said. “We’ll be ready with reliable, proprietary engines for our customers.”

Schmueckle also said he hopes lobbying efforts will convince Congress to offer incentives to buyers to help ease purchase penalties.

Freightliner Trucks also made several product announcements, including an enhanced Driver’s Lounge for select heavy-duty models featuring a simplified and more durable design, larger work area and stabilized support system. Other introductions included two new chrome accessory packages incorporating premium Panelite products, a new instrument cluster and optional disc brakes on all Freightliner Class 8 models.

In conjunction with DaimlerChrysler Services Truck Finance, Freightliner also unveiled the Coronado Quest, a new financing program for customers who purchase a 2006 model year Coronado.