Martin Daum, former president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America and now the newest member of the Daimler AG Board of Management with responsibility for Daimler Trucks and Buses.

An exit interview with DTNA’s Martin Daum

March 6, 2017
Promoted to run Daimler’s global truck business, he talks about his proudest achievement and favorite memory heading up Daimler Trucks North America.

On Feb. 28 Martin Daum stepped down as president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, and on March 1 stepped up onto an even bigger stage as the head of Daimler’s global truck and bus businesses. His new official title is member of the Daimler AG Board of Management (BOM) with responsibility for Daimler Trucks and Daimler Buses.

Along with that unwieldly title comes a corporate policy that all new BOM members refrain from public interviews and statements for their first 100 days.  But with the understanding that he couldn’t talk about future plans or strategies, Daum bent that rule a bit to give one final interview for the North American truck market where he’s lived and thrived for the past eight years.

Although his new office will be at Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, “I’m not out of the North American industry,” Daum told Fleet Owner in a telephone interview. “I made many close and dear friends here and like Wolfgang [Bernhard, former Daimler Truck head who resigned in mid-February], I will continue to be at customer events and certainly at the NACV show in Atlanta in the Fall. After all, NAFTA is one of the cornerstones of our global truck business.”

Daum also pointed out that he’s holding on to his house in Portland, OR, near DTNA’s main offices. “I really love Portland, and see us moving back to Oregon sometime in the future,” he said.

For now, though, Daum is taking the helm of a global truck company that’s given him the opportunity to experience almost every aspect of manufacturing and marketing commercial vehicles since he joined Daimler’s management development program in 1987.  “My resume includes sales, research, finance, manufacturing both in Europe and the U.S.,” he pointed out. “I bring diverse experience to the mix.”

He’ll need that experience as he tackles huge challenges like trucking’s transformation all around the world by connectivity. “We can’t be full of words and no deeds,” Daum said. “We have to develop products that make sense, that sell and make the world a better place. That’s what we’ve done [in North America] and I’m excited to try to do it now on a larger scale.”

The challenge Daum sees as he moves to that larger scale “is remaining a hungry but humble company that is highly efficient yet open to any changes the future will have in store for us.”

Looking over his last eight years, Daum said he’s proudest of working with “a dream team” at DTNA, which not only operates the Freightliner and Western Star truck manufacturing businesses, but also includes Detroit Diesel, Freightliner Custom Chassis, and Thomas Built Buses. “There’s a culture there were one plus one equals much more than two,” he said. “Everyone is able to achieve so much because everyone supports each other. That’s what I’m proudest of.”

How that culture was created is probably best illustrated by what Daum says is his favorite memory of his time at DTNA. 

“I took my top eight guys in four Cascadia sleepers and drove to the Oregon coast,” he recalled. “We dropped the trailers and took the tractors into a campground, where we broke out the grills and beer. After a wonderful evening, we all slept in the bunks – they put me with someone else who also snores.  The next day we had a strategy session on a beautiful beach, then picked up the trailers and drove back to Portland.  That was really cool.”

He can’t talk about it for 100 days, but chances are good that Daum already has a campground picked out on the banks of the Rhine.

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