Moderate expansion of world economy
The world economy seems to have continued its upward trend in the first quarter of 2014, although there were some dampened expectations for global growth. In the United States, the unusually hard winter had a negative impact on the economy at the beginning of the year. A positive factor here, however, was that the smoothly reached agreement on increasing the public debt ceiling removed a major economic risk for 2014. In Western Europe, key sentiment indicators continued their solid development and confirmed that the region’s economy is still rather weak, but the trend is positive. However, developments were critical in some emerging markets, which were affected by capital outflows, stock-market losses, currency depreciations and higher inflation. The latest events in the Ukraine have already triggered significant economic setbacks, especially in Russia. Against this backdrop, global equity markets developed rather unevenly and were very volatile, while the euro was generally quite strong.
Worldwide demand for cars continued to grow in the first quarter. Above all, market developments in the more mature economies were generally positive, despite a slowdown in the United States. But with the exception of China, sales in some large emerging economies were still rather unfavorable due to the difficult economic conditions. The US market was affected by extreme weather conditions at the beginning of the year. In March, however, a significant catch-up effect was to be observed, so demand in the full quarter was slightly higher than in the prior-year period. The Western European market expanded by 7% compared with the low level of the prior-year period. The five largest individual markets all recorded perceptible growth. Demand in Japan featured purchases brought forward to avoid the higher rate of value-added tax that came into force in April, so the market was more than 20% larger than in the first quarter of last year. The upward trend in China remained intact, with double-digit increases in car sales also at the beginning of the year. But the Russian market was affected by the country’s weak economy and the Crimea crisis and contracted slightly compared with the prior-year period. Demand in India remained weak and was significantly lower than in the first quarter of 2013.
Demand for medium- and heavy-duty trucks developed disparately in the various regions in the first quarter. The North American market was affected by the hard winter at the beginning of the year and at first displayed little dynamism. Nonetheless, thanks to a favorable development in March, demand in the full quarter was significantly higher than in the prior-year period. In Europe, the market in the first quarter continued to be affected by purchases brought forward due to the introduction of Euro VI emission standards, and was significantly larger than in the weak first quarter of last year. The Japanese market for light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks also reflected a special effect. Purchases were brought forward due to an increase in value-added tax in April, with the result that demand was higher than in the prior-year period by significant double-digit percentages. Sales of trucks in Brazil developed weakly at the beginning of the year and were significantly lower than in the first quarter of 2013. The main reasons here were the ongoing lack of economic dynamism and less favorable financing conditions in connection with the state support programs. The difficult economic conditions in many emerging markets continued to depress demand for trucks in India and Russia. Although the downward trend is no longer accelerating in India, the market still contracted by a significant double-digit rate compared with the prior-year period. The Russian market is also likely to have been smaller than in the prior-year quarter by a double-digit percentage. China, the world’s biggest truck market, expanded significantly but its expansion slowed down towards the end of the quarter.
Demand for vans in Europe increased slightly compared with the first quarter of last year. The North American van market benefited from an even stronger recovery.
In the first three months of 2014, the bus market in Western Europe developed at the previous year’s level, as expected. Demand decreased in Eastern Europe, however. Due to the difficult economic situation in Argentina, the Latin American market was also smaller than in the prior-year period.
Growth in first-quarter unit sales
In the first quarter of 2014, the Daimler Group sold 565,800 passenger cars and commercial vehicles worldwide, surpassing the prior-year total by 13%.
Mercedes-Benz Cars posted its strongest first quarter for unit sales in its history, selling 389,500 vehicles. The division sold 59,100 vehicles in Germany (Q1 2013: 61,100), 93,200 in Western Europe excluding Germany (+5%) and 76,900 in the United States (+13%). Mercedes-Benz Cars recorded strong first-quarter unit sales also in Japan (+44%) and South Korea (+44%). In China, unit sales improved substantially compared with the prior-year period to the number of 70,300 vehicles (+52%).
Unit sales by Daimler Trucks of 108,500 vehicles were 7% above the prior-year period. The markets of Western Europe, North America and Japan developed positively, while demand decreased in the emerging markets. Our unit sales in Western Europe of 11,600 vehicles were slightly below the prior-year level. Many customers in this region had brought their purchases forward to the second half of 2013, before the new Euro VI emission standards came into force at the beginning of 2014. In Germany, however, Daimler Trucks achieved a 5% increase in unit sales. With our Mercedes-Benz trucks, we remain the market leader by a significant margin in the region of Western Europe as well as in the core market of Germany, with market shares of 22.0% and 38.1% respectively. Our sales in Latin America decreased by 22% to 10,200 units. Demand for trucks in that region was reduced by the current conditions. Nonetheless, we slightly increased our market share in Brazil with our Mercedes-Benz vehicles. In the NAFTA region, our sales of 34,600 units were 13% higher than in the prior-year quarter. In Class 6-8, we achieved a market share of 40.1% with our North American brands, defending our market leadership with a significant margin. Unit sales in Asia rose by 15% to 40,600 vehicles. One reason for the increased demand in Japan was the increase in value-added tax as of April 1, 2014.
Unit sales by Mercedes-Benz Vans rose in the first quarter of 2014 by 16% to 61,100 vehicles, with a 20% increase in its core region of Western Europe to 39,100 vehicles. The growth trend continued in Eastern Europe; despite a difficult situation in Turkey, sales in this region increased from 5,200 to 6,000 units. In the United States, sales of 5,000 vans were 26% above the prior-year level. We posted double-digit growth rates also in China, where unit sales were up by 14% to 2,700 vehicles. In Latin America, however, sales of 3,600 units were below the prior-year level (Q1 2013: 4,100).
First-quarter unit sales by Daimler Buses of 6,700 buses and bus chassis were significantly higher than the total of 6,000 units sold in the same period of last year. Growth in Western Europe due to increased demand for complete buses more than offset the decrease in unit sales of bus chassis in Latin America. We sold 1,100 buses in Western Europe, which is twice as many as in the prior-year quarter. Unit sales in Latin America (excluding Mexico) decreased slightly to 4,000 bus chassis (Q1 2013: 4,100).
At Daimler Financial Services, new business increased compared with the prior-year quarter by 14% to €9.8 billion. Contract volume of €84.3 billion at March 31 was slightly higher than the level at the end of 2013.
The Daimler Group’s first-quarter revenue amounted to €29.5 billion, which is 13% higher than in the first quarter of 2013. Adjusted for exchange-rate effects, revenue grew by 18%.
The Mercedes-Benz Cars division achieved a disproportionately high increase in revenue compared with unit sales due to the more favorable model mix. At Daimler Trucks, revenue of €7.1 billion was only slightly above the prior-year level, despite growth in unit sales of 7%, because currency translation had a negative impact on revenue. The Mercedes-Benz Vans division increased its unit sales by 11% to €2.2 billion. Daimler Buses also achieved double-digit revenue growth, with a positive impact in particular from the high proportion of complete buses sold.
|Unit sales by division|
|Q1 2014||Q1 2013||% change|
|Revenue by division|
|In millions of euros||Q1 2014||Q1 2013||% change|
|Daimler Financial Services||3,809||3,577||+6|