The Tesla Semi is coming and the big players in the truck industry are starting to pay attention. Among them is Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Trucks, who recently stated that his company is taking the all-electric Silicon Valley truck very seriously. While this is the case, Daum also noted that it would be very difficult for Tesla to have an impact on the truck market.
Daum's latest statements were reported in a recent interview at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2018. The Daimler Trucks CEO acknowledged that Tesla Semi is "fun" and that the electric car maker has already proven itself in the automotive market. The veteran executive noted, however, that the field of action in the truck market is something that would be strange for Tesla, at least for now.
"They are funny; is an interesting market. We take every competitor seriously; Tesla has proven that they actually have the toughness to actually go through huge losses to capture the market. But trucking is a difficult business. They will learn the hard way; Trucks are not like passenger cars where one size fits all. There's a lot of variety in the trucks … the United States is a highly competitive market, so like I said, they're fun, "he said.
The CEO of Daimler Trucks said the truck industry covers a number of categories. In North America alone, a region where Daimler Trucks sold 176,000 vehicles in 2018, the company has sold several types of vehicles ranging from school buses and delivery vans to large, specialized trucks weighing several tons. Daum noted, however, that Daimler is only capable of developing and manufacturing these trucks because of the company's overall footprint.
That footprint, according to the CEO, is something Tesla still needs to have.
"How do we survive? Because we run a global business. I do not just look at the 176,000 North American trucks; I look at the more than 500,000 trucks we sell around the world … And that's a unit number that you need to ultimately survive. Of all the players in the US market – Volvo, Navistar, the association with the Volkswagen Group, and Paccar – we all have a big global footprint. "
"So for Tesla, that's a long way to go. Not making fun of them, we take them seriously. In their niche, they can be successful, but to be the fifth player in the North American market, it's a long way, and let's not make it easy for them. "
Although Daum's recent statements about the Tesla Semi are still a bit scornful, the CEO's words are a remarkable improvement over his initial skepticism over the long-time electric. After Elon Musk had revealed the specifications of the Semi, after all, Daum infamously suggested that the electric truck probably defies the rules of physics. In a statement to BloombergDaum noted that "if Tesla actually fulfills this promise, obviously we will buy two trucks – one to take apart and one to test, because if that happens, something has passed us by. But for now, the same laws of physics apply in Germany and California. "
Since its inception, some members of the truck industry have begun to get used to the idea of an all-electric full-length truck. Sean Chenault, a 16-year veteran of the industry, noted that the vehicle is "a good thing" for the "whole" market. The CEO of Roadmaster Group, John Wilbur, further stressed that Tesla's technologies such as systems probably push forward.
The Tesla Semi is currently undergoing tests on the roads of America. The silver prototype has been seen in several states over the past few months, and the matte black test mule (now shrouded in a dazzling red) has made appearances on a Supercharger as well. During the inauguration of the vehicle, Elon Musk announced that Semi would begin production in 2019, although later statements by Tesla's investor relations chief Martin Viecha observed during a Gigafactory Tour 1 that production of the vehicle would begin "seriously" by 2020.