Said Schrempp: "It has become much more difficult to reach the targets we have set ourselves. Nonetheless, we will make every effort to achieve them. We are well in control of those levers of our business over which we have direct influence." In this regard and based on preliminary figures, Schrempp called the first quarter of 2003 "encouraging".
The Mercedes Car Group had a good start to the year 2003. Despite overall reductions in passenger car markets, the Mercedes Car Group was able in this quarter to increase worldwide sales of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.
The Commercial Vehicles division has thus far held its own well with regard to sales, revenues, market shares and order intakes. There are indications in the markets of a stabilizing trend albeit at relatively low levels. Last year's restructuring should have a positive impact in 2003 and should also lead to an improved result overall.
The US market for passenger cars and light trucks has been extremely difficult and competitive during the first 3 months of the year. Sales are below last year's volume, and incentives have risen even further, thereby impacting negatively on profits.
The Chrysler Group could not disengage from this activity. Consequently, Chrysler Group has accelerated its efforts aimed at additional cost savings as it endeavors to reach the target of 2 billion US-dollars operating profit, before one-time charges.
The Services division has continued its positive development in the first quarter and should be able to harvest the fruits of its major drive to improve systems and cost savings while practicing more effective risk control.
DaimlerChrysler will publish a comprehensive interim report for the first quarter of 2003 on April 24, 2003.
Further efficiency increases in all divisions
Through programs for efficiency increases in all business divisions, DaimlerChrysler seeks to ensure last year's positive earnings development in the current year and to further improve the Group's cost position.
DaimlerChrysler will continue to streamline its processes in every business division and to increase efficiency even further, said Schrempp. In view of the increased competition in the automobile industry, optimization of the Group's costs and raising efficiency levels are coming to the fore as important success factors more than ever before. "Wherever opportunities arise for cooperation between our divisions we will utilize them, learn from each other, and achieve additional synergies through shared projects," said Schrempp.
As examples of divisional opportunities, Schrempp cited the creation and expansion of product families such as the A-Class within the Mercedes Car Group. Chrysler Group will continue to advance at full speed with the continued reduction of its cost position in spite of its having reached the profit zone. In addition, Chrysler Group will increase its competitiveness with new attractive products. In the Commercial Vehicles division it is DaimlerChrysler's goal to transform its high production volumes as the global market leader into cost advantages and thus into higher profits. This implies the enhanced exchange of systems and components.
Cross-divisional programs will also improve further the company's competitiveness. "This is - in some areas of operation - the only way for us to penetrate new and attractive segments", said Schrempp.
The Chairman of the Board of Management discussed in detail the 2002 results with an audience of around 10,000 shareholders. In the previous year, DaimlerChrysler achieved all its targets, even surpassing some. With revenues almost unchanged at about EUR 150 billion, DaimlerChrysler succeeded in more than quadrupling operating profit adjusted for one-time effects to EUR 5.8 billion. The cash flow position improved significantly, and the balance sheet continues to be very healthy. As Jürgen E. Schrempp said "we are satisfied with these results, above all because we achieved them in extremely difficult circumstances - in an environment that was marked by great uncertainty and declining consumer confidence worldwide".
According to Schrempp, DaimlerChrysler made significant strides last year in the implementation of its corporate strategy, which rests on the four pillars of:
Thus, DaimlerChrysler significantly expanded its presence in Asia through the commercial vehicle joint ventures with Mitsubishi Fuso and Hyundai Motor in Korea. With regard to the brand portfolio the Chairman of the Board of Management noted the reintroduction of the Maybach and the expansion of smart into a multi-product brand. Schrempp underlined the company's commitment to a broad product range with the announcement that DaimlerChrysler will launch 40 new passenger cars and commercial vehicles in the next three years alone. As an example of DaimlerChrysler's leadership in technology and innovation, the Chairman of the Board of Management cited alternative engines. DaimlerChrysler is the only company worldwide to be working successfully on both methanol- and hydrogen-based technologies for the fuel cell.
A Dividend Increase by 50 Percent
The Board of Management and the Supervisory Board proposed to the Annual Meeting payment of a dividend of EUR 1.50 (2001: 1.00) per share for the year 2002. This represents a 50 percent increase and a dividend distribution of EUR 1.5 (2001: 1.0) billion. The dividend reflects the progress made in the previous year and the confidence in the continued development of DaimlerChrysler. The total dividend distribution is the largest among the companies listed on the German stock market index, Dax.
(April 09, 2003)