Nikola: Disrupting Trucking Industry Incumbents?

Former CEO & Chairman, Daimler Trucks Asia

Why is this interview interesting?

  • Drivers of total cost of ownership for medium and heavy-duty trucks
  • Barriers to entry in the medium and heavy duty trucking market
  • Drivers of customer purchasing decisions for medium and heavy-duty trucks
  • How emissions regulation will drive uptake of new propulsion systems
  • Strategic options for Nikola as a new entrant in the heavy-duty trucking market
  • Sources of pressure for industry margins in the coming years
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Executive Bio

Albert Kirchmann

Former CEO & Chairman, Daimler Trucks Asia

Albert has more than 35 years of professional experience in senior management positions in the automotive industry, including over 32 years at Daimler. Among other roles, he was CFO, strategist and product planner for Daimler's global commercial vehicle business. Most recently, he was responsible for the Truck & Bus business of Daimler Asia as CEO and Chairman until 2016. Albert consults on the trucking industry through his consulting firm AXK Group. Read more

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Interview Transcript

Let’s start with some quick comments on the overall trucking industry.

These days, it’s maybe one of the most exciting phases of the trucking industry, of the last 100 to 125 years, because there is a fundamental change, which is driven by the environment, which is driven by CO2 reduction, which is driven by the recent Green Transportation. This means totally new emission-free propulsion systems and it means, on the other hand, significantly increased efficiency. A buzzword comes into play here, which is digitalization. To make this more hectic, truckers always want to get feel and touch. If you look at a truck or a trailer truck on the highway today, then you should imagine that, on average, a truck is only loaded up to 50%. It varies by country; some countries have a 60% average and some countries a 48% average. This means that with information technology, you can ensure that that truck is not loaded 50%, but 60%, 70% or 80%, and you will need 10%, 20%, 30% less trucks on the road.

You may think that for people in the truck business, like myself, who by the way, has a truck driver’s license, that this is not a good message, because the more trucks you sell, the happier you are. No; it’s not true. But let’s say the success of trucking gets to the problem of trucking because crowded highways drives the perception of the population against truck transportation. This is not good for the trucking industry. It must be an accepted industry. Trucking, nowadays, is on the borderline of being not accepted or being criticized. But there is no alternative to trucking because, as we have seen during the unfortunate Covid-19 time, without the truck, our daily life would not work.

There is no alternative to trucking because you can shift transportation, partially, to the train but this is very limited. If you want to double the transportation volume in trains, in Germany, then you would just move 10% of the truck load to the train. So we are talking 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, 5% which again, which can be flexibly shifted if there are good connections. This is just one example as to why there is no alternative for trucking.

Having said this, coming back to your question, emission, alternative propulsion, innovation at its best and, secondly, digitalization, to increase the efficiency. This makes trucking very, very interesting.

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Nikola: Disrupting Trucking Industry Incumbents?(July 14, 2020)

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