31-34/2016 Wanted: real competition
The influence a blog can have on the “real world” was illustrated recently by an example involving Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. On 20 July he wrote that Tesla is conduction research into the options for a heavy lorry, with the first model due to be presented in 2017. He also announced plans to reduce the cost of freight transportation and improve safety standards.
The doubters will now surely highlight Tesla Motors’ problems with self-driving cars, but the fact remains that the firm’s battery-powered vehicles are capable of covering long distances. Tesla has called the electric-car tune for the traditional car-making industry for a while already – now the electric trucks segment is set to follow.
Quite a few specialists are already active in the sector. One provider is the Dutch firm Emoss, which converts lorries to electric operations. Its units can offer a range of up to 250 km. But the industry has not yet managed to market an off-the-rack electric truck. This could be about to change. From 2014 to 2015, for example, Daimler conducted major tests with eight electric trucks, manufactured by its Portuguese subsidiary Fuso. The results? The vehicles managed to cover more than 100 km on a charged battery. Operating costs declined by up to 64%. Other Daimler tests are being conducted in Stuttgart (Germany), where the firm provided a logistician with an electric 6 t lorry and the city of Stuttgart with four more 6 t units in April. They will test them for a year.
At the end of July Daimler went one further, presenting the prototype of a fully-electric 26 t truck with a range of up to 200 km. Production is expected to start in four or five years. Scania is also conducting research in this field. At the end of June it started operations on a 2 km test route with an overhead line in Sweden. The lorry deployed there has a diesel and an electric motor on board. When the electric drive is on the power comes from the overhead line.
This excursion into the world of mobile electricity shows that Daimler and Scania have blazed a path – now it’s Tesla’s turn.
That’s a good thing. Competition drives business – in this case the truck-making industry. At least in theory. Between 1997 and 2011 the European lorry market represented exactly the opposite however for its clients, including the transport industry, as the segment was rather undynamic, on account of a truck industry cartel that ran for 14 years. 14 years!
At the end of July the EU Commission imposed fines on the members of this lorry cartel, which encompassed practically every player in the market. The collusion covered 6 to 16 t trucks, as well as one class larger units. The EU Commission’s fines totalled EUR 2.93 billion. Daimler’s share came to EUR 1.01 billion, DAF’s to EUR 753 million, Volvo / Renault’s to EUR 670 million and Iveco’s to EUR 495 million. One VW subsidiary got off scot free – MAN, the informer – whilst another one, Scania, is still subject to investigation.
The experts looking into the illegal activities believe that the corporations’ customers paid up to 20% too much for their vehicles. Shortly after the fines were imposed the British and Irish forwarders’ associations said they were examining the option of claiming damages in court.
Money is one element of business, trust another. It takes years to build trust – damaging it some- times takes a little less time.