The Tesla Semi is coming, and the trucking industry’s big players are starting to take notice. Among these is Daimler Trucks CEO Martin Daum, who recently stated that his firm is taking the all-electric long hauler from the Silicon Valley company very seriously. While this is the case, though, Daum also noted that it would be very difficult for Tesla to make a dent in the trucking market.
Daum’s latest statements were related in a recent interview during the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The Daimler Trucks CEO acknowledged that the Tesla Semi is “fun,” and that the electric car maker has proven itself in the auto market. The veteran executive pointed out, though, that the playing field in the trucking market is something that would be alien to Tesla, at least for now.
“They’re fun; it’s an interesting market. We take every competitor seriously; Tesla has proved they really have the tenacity to really go through huge losses to capture the market. But trucking is a difficult business. They will learn the hard way; trucking is not like passenger cars where one size fits all. There’s a lot of variety in trucking… the United States is a highly competitive market, so as I said, they’re fun,” he said.
The Daimler Trucks CEO stated that the trucking industry spans a number of categories. In North America alone, a region where Daimler Trucks sold 176,000 vehicles in 2018, the company sold several types of vehicles, from school buses and delivery vans to large, specialized trucks that weigh several tons. Daum noted, though, that Daimler is only able to develop and manufacture these trucks because of the company’s global footprint.
This footprint, according to the CEO, is something that Tesla is yet to have.
“How do we survive? Because we run a global business. I don’t just look at the 176,000 North American trucks; I look at the more 500,000 trucks we sell worldwide… And that is a unit number you need to survive ultimately. Of all players in the North American market — Volvo, Navistar, in the association with the Volkswagen Group, and Paccar — we all have one big global footprint.”
“So for Tesla, it is a long way for it to get that. Not making fun of them, we take them seriously. In their niche, they could be successful, but to be ultimately the fifth player in the North American market, it’s a long way, and we won’t make it easy for them.”
While Daum’s recent statements about the Tesla Semi were still a bit dismissive, the CEO’s words are a notable improvement over his initial skepticism of the all-electric long-hauler. After Elon Musk unveiled the specs of the Semi, after all, Daum infamously suggested that the electric truck probably defies the rules of physics. In a statement to Bloomberg, Daum lightly noted that “If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously 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 in California.”
Since its unveiling, some members of the trucking industry have started warming up to the idea of an all-electric long-hauler. Sean Chenault, a 16-year veteran of the industry, noted that the vehicle is “a good thing” for the market “as a whole.” Roadmaster Group CEO John Wilbur further pointed out that Tesla’s technologies such as its driver-assist systems would likely push trucking forward.
The Tesla Semi is currently undergoing testing on America’s roads. The silver prototype has been spotted in several states over the past few months, and the matte black test mule (now wrapped in a stunning red), made appearances at a Supercharger as well. During the vehicle’s unveiling, Elon Musk announced that the Semi would start production sometime in 2019, though later statements from Tesla head of investor relations Martin Viecha noted during a Tour of Gigafactory 1 that production of the vehicle would “earnestly” start by 2020.