Project Future: Certainty in Uncertain Times

New competition. Rapidly developing technologies. Increasingly diverse customer demands. These are just a few of the major forces driving the massive transformation in our world, and especially, in the auto industry.

Understandably, that also adds up to a lot of uncertainty. For some the response is to be cautious or defensive. I believe the best way to embrace change is to get out ahead of it and bring your strengths to bear. That’s what we’re doing at Daimler right now. We’re getting out ahead of change with four “Cs”:

CORE and CASE

Our CORE business makes us stronger than ever. The hard work of our 290,000 employees across all divisions and functions is the basis for our recent success. In the first nine months of the year 2017, we continued along our successful path and achieved best ever figures for that period for unit sales, revenue and EBIT.

This strong basis is necessary to move forward in all of our CASE pillars – Connectivity, Autonomous Driving, Shared & Services and E-Mobility. No doubt: They are defining the new automotive landscape. CORE and CASE are no opposites, but two sides of the same coin – we need both, that’s a matter of fact.

CULTURE and COMPANY

And to successfully manage the transition to future technology we also have to update our CULTURE. There’s a lot going on right now. With the fourth C the circle closes: It’s about our COMPANY structure.

Last week we announced that we will pursue this project, aiming to make it stronger in a sustainable way. “Project Future” is about transforming our business units into three legally independent entities, all under the Daimler umbrella: Mercedes-Benz Cars & Vans, Daimler Trucks & Buses and the already legally independent Daimler Financial Services AG.

A chart of the "Project Future"

More flexible business, more corporate responsibility, new growth opportunities

Now the Supervisory Board decided to move forward with “Project Future” and approved further reviews, as well as taking the first steps to strengthen the divisional structure of Daimler by giving our business units greater flexibility, entrepreneurial responsibility and new growth opportunities. We all know: When executives talk about “flexibility” many employees hear “job cuts”. That’s not the point.

Legally independent entities would be able to respond in a more targeted manner to customer and market needs, and to enter into focused partnerships and investments. In this way I’m confident we can best position ourselves to remain successful in the long run with the highly diverse products and broad array of services we offer. A final decision on implementing the new structure will be made after the ongoing assessments have been completed.

We’re guided by one key idea above all:

We want to stay “on top” in the long run. When I talk about “staying on top”, I always keep in mind that it’s our people who make that happen. We know we won’t be successful in future without our great employees worldwide. We want them to stay aboard and to remain fully engaged and highly motivated as they continue to give their very best!

Securing employment, creating new job perspectives

So, while other companies are cutting back on personnel or may propose new organizations as a Trojan horse for reducing “headcount,” we are working closely with employee representative to take bold, concrete steps to protect jobs in our CORE business and offer new job opportunities in the CASE fields.

That is why we agreed on the cornerstones of a balance of interests to safeguard employment through this transformation period until the end of the next decade to show our strong commitment and belief in a bright future – in the future and innovation of our automotive industry and, of course, in the future and innovation of Daimler.

Furthermore, these actions are likely to bolster Daimler’s financial strength, enabling us to sustain the high level of investments we continue to make in R&D, products and facilities of all kinds to ensure our competitiveness and grow our business around the globe.

Dieter Zetsche is Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.