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Daimler Forecasts Growing Truck Demand as Fuso Targets Restart

March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Daimler AG, the world’s largest maker of heavy-duty vehicles, booked more truck orders than anticipated in the first two months of 2011, underscoring its forecast of “significant” market growth this year.

Truck sales in January and February rose 28 percent, while orders from Europe and North America exceeded growth expectations, Andreas Renschler, head of Daimler’s commercial-vehicles division, said today. Even amid questions of how the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan will affect markets, Daimler aims to outpace competitors such as Volvo AB and MAN SE.

“The best months are still to come,” Renschler told reporters at a briefing near the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. “The upswing is global and it’s robust. We have the clear goal of developing faster than the market.”

Daimler forecasts industrywide North American heavy-truck demand climbing 20 percent to 25 percent this year, while the European market may grow 15 percent to 20 percent. The manufacturer may raise its projections as long as current “positive” trends continue, Renschler said.

The automaker’s Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus division in Japan plans to resume operations on March 23 after shutting factories and setting up a temporary headquarters in Osaka following the quake. The Kawasaki-based unit, which makes the Canter light commercial vehicle, accounted for 40 percent of Daimler’s 355,300 truck sales last year.

“Before the earthquake, we counted on moderate growth for Japan,” Renschler said. “Whether that’s still doable can’t yet be determined. I’m wholeheartedly convinced that the country will recover from this disaster.”

A joint bid with Rolls-Royce Group Plc for German manufacturer Tognum AG offers “many growth opportunities,” Renschler said, adding that the offer price of 24 euros per share for the maker of heavy-duty engines for ships, tanks and power generators, is “appropriate.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Reiter in Stuttgart via creiter2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net

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