Daimler Trucks says zero-emission vehicles will cost thousands of jobs

BERLIN (Reuters) - Daimler Trucks’ shift to zero-emission vehicles will lead to thousands of job losses at the company’s German powertrain plants by 2033, its chairman said on Thursday, adding cuts would be gradual and achieved via retirements and voluntary packages.

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“This is no revolution coming over night, this is an evolution,” Martin Daum told journalists on a conference call.

Electric vehicles have far fewer moving parts than traditional combustion engine models and as automakers shift production their engine and powertrain plants are expected to employ far fewer people over time.

When asked what consequences European Union CO2 emission reduction targets would have for Daimler Trucks’ German powertrain plants, Daum said they would have thousands fewer workers by 2033.

Daum would not say precisely how many jobs would be affected, but Daimler Trucks’ powertrain plants in Germany currently employ around 14,000 people.

“But this is no catastrophe,” Daum said. “We can use demographic changes and voluntary (severance) agreements. We will have no forced layoffs.”

Daum said a deal announced earlier this week with Cummins Inc, where the U.S. engine maker will develop and produce medium-duty engines for Daimler, would bring significant savings starting in 2025 or 2026.

“We will save a lot,” Daum said. “There will be a positive contribution to results - not tomorrow but ... by 2025, 2026 there will be significant savings.”

Daum said he expected more such deals between manufacturers and suppliers so that truck makers don’t have to bear all the costs of developing a full range of commercial trucks.

Daimler said on Thursday its truck business saw a recovery in the fourth quarter, especially in North America and Europe, selling 121,000 units, almost double the figure in the second quarter, when sales were hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

For 2021, Daimler Truck sees significantly higher revenue than in 2020 and an increase in adjusted return on sales to 6-7% versus 2% in 2020.

Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, Nick Carey and Emma Thomasson. Editing by Caroline Copley and Mark Potter