The cutting room floor: Behind the scenes with Daimler CEO Martin Daum

The CEO of Daimler Trucks North America is fond of telling stories with numbers. Plus: a video clip of Daum explaining why he loves to come to work everyday.

Share this article!

I interviewed Martin Daum two month’s ago for this month’s cover story about changes underway at DTNA: new fuel efficiency and autonomous vehicle initiatives,  beefed up workplace amenities and the company’s ritzy new headquarters.

During our conversation Daum demonstrated a fondness for numerical narratives, most of which alas, did not make it into the final article.

So here are a few choice quotes from the cutting room floor. (And don’t miss the video clip at the end of the post, in which Daum talks about what it’s like to work at Daimler.)

Why trucks never get old

“We sometimes have this debate about passenger car and whether we can have mass transportation instead of the passenger car.  That is a legitimate decision. But if you have to haul 80,000 pounds, you need a truck; you can’t do that with a wheelbarrow.  And that truck is always full.  And if you only have to haul a 20,000 pound truck, you don’t take an 80,000 pound truck, you take a medium duty truck. You fit the size of the load.”

Investing in research and development

“One thing where it paid off big time is in 2009. We had a little less than 30% market share, and today we have a little more than 40% market share. That gives us 10% market share in a 400,000-unit market. That’s 40,000 customers deciding to buy our product.”

Leadership style

“I don’t want to sit in an ivory tower; I want a discussion culture. This is always a big management challenge; if the CEO speaks, the discussions stops. I believe in different opinions. If you have a skeptic, you need an optimist,  If you have an extrovert,  you need an introvert. Ten times myself would be a disaster.”

But here is Daum’s real statistical tour de force: a disquisition on fuel efficiency

“When we started in 2009, trucks got seven miles per gallon. So a truck that runs 140,000 miles a year spends 20,000 gallons.  If you improve by 10%, which we did a couple of times since 2009, you save from those 20,000 gallons a year, 4,000 gallons per truck.  Now comes the multiplication. We sell 100,000 trucks a year; that is 400 million gallons every single year, and trucks last ten years. This is more than just what one individual can contribute; it’s 4 billion gallons. I hope I got the zeros right.”

The following numerical quotes did make it into the article:

The danger of sleeping while driving

“We have close to 1 million freightliner trucks out there. So if you have .0001% of guys who sleep while driving then you have ten accidents today.”

The lawsuits filed by six Western Star workers claiming sexual and racial harassment 

“When you have 20,000 people you have 0.1% knuckleheads, which is already too much. Twenty are enough.”

OB photographer Jason Kaplan shot the following clip of Daum in DTNA’s new headquarters: “I don’t know exactly what’s coming today” says Daum. “But whatever comes, it’s a big challenge.”