Berlin, Germany – Daimler AG has held its first annual meeting under its new name, with CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche telling shareholders that while the company has a clear strategy for sustainable and profitable growth, the economic climate suggests that things will get tougher rather than easier.

Zetsche said that sustainable mobility and crash-free driving are the most important focuses of Daimler’s research and development work, and the company will increase its budgets in research and development to almost €14 billion by 2010. Daimler invested €4.1 billion in research and development and €1.8 billion in environmental protection in 2007. “We invented the automobile, and we are passionately shaping its future,” Zetsche said, citing that the number of automobiles in the world is growing five times as fast as its population and in the long term, the increase will only be ecologically acceptable if passenger cars and commercial vehicles become cleaner.

The company’s “road map” for sustainable mobility will include the ongoing optimization of innovative combustion engines, the additional improvement of hybrids, and zero-emission vehicles with fuel cells and battery-driven systems. The company is also actively involved in the search for future clean fuels and new energy sources. Zetsche emphasized that Daimler will not build only small cars, but has a goal of offering at least one model in each of the Mercedes-Benz core model series that is a leader in terms of consumption and emissions.

Zetsche also reported that key factors including the credit crisis in the U.S., the ongoing weakening of the dollar against the euro, the development of the raw material markets and the low level of confidence in the U.S. economy will affect the automotive markets, and said that the demand for passenger vehicles in the U.S. is likely to be lower in 2008 than in 2007 and will remain flat in Western Europe. Industry growth will be driven by emerging markets, whose growth is “so dynamic that it will more than offset the triad’s weaknesses”; overall, Daimler assumes that the global market for passenger cars will grow by approximately two per cent in 2008. The company also expects to maintain last year’s high levels of commercial vehicles in Europe, but does not expect a recovery before the second half of the year in North America.

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