An Important Cogwheel in the Gear Box: the Daimler Subsidiary in Detroit


The Detroit Transmission 12 Gear (DT12) used in the two heavy-duty trucks Freightliner Cascadia and Western Star 5700 XE is extremely popular in North America. Since 2015, DT12 is being produced directly in Redford near Detroit in the US State of Michigan.

The Detroit Diesel Corporation is headquartered around 20 miles west of Detroit. The plant is known primarily for the production of the heavy-duty diesel engines with Blue-Tec technology at the heart of many trucks and buses. The “Detroit” aggregate plant in Redford, which was founded in 1938, became a subsidiary of Daimler AG in the year 2000.

The plant operates on an area of more than 280,000 square meters with a workforce of around 2,200 employees, who develop, manufacture and sell engines, transmissions and axles for the American commercial vehicle brands of Daimler Trucks, Freightliner and Western Star. Global Procurement Trucks and Buses is also represented in Detroit: More than 20 of the 800 employees worldwide procure for the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) market systems and components for engines, transmissions, axles, and exhaust after treatment as well as spare parts.

Detroit plant
The Daimler plant in Redford near Detroit.

An exceptional feature of the plant is the “Redford Supplier Mall”, which is located directly on the plant grounds, where small and mid-sized suppliers can build up their own production capacities in direct proximity to their customer. The Redford Supplier Mall offers a mature infrastructure – from the usual plant services to planning, development and testing and beyond to laboratories and tooling technology. That is why the “Mall” is far more than just a rented production space for the suppliers who have settled there.

Since 2012, under the aggregate brand “Detroit”, Daimler Trucks offers a perfectly synchronized powertrain “from a single source”: with its own engines, transmissions and axles. Daimler Trucks was the first manufacturer on the North American market to do this.

Investments of US dollars 475 million in new transmissions and engines production

“Built in Detroit” – This was the motto with which Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, and Daimler Trucks acknowledged the start of production of the DT12 in the industrial metropolis in November 2015. Daimler has invested US dollars 100 million in the assembly facility of the automated DT12 transmission, for which Daimler is creating around 170 new local jobs. In addition, Daimler Trucks is investing a total of around US dollars 375 million in the development and production of the new DD5 and DD8 engines, for which it is creating approximately 160 more local jobs.

Gave the starting shot for local production of the automated heavy-duty transmission DT12: Roger Penske, owner of the automobile racing-stable Penske Racing; Martin Daum, President and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America; Wolfgang Bernhard, Head of Daimler Trucks & Buses; Frank Reintjes, Head of Global Powertrain & Manufacturing Engineering Trucks; Jeff Allen, Head of Operations Detroit Truck; Rick Snyder, Governor of the state Michigan (f.l.t.r.).

The new DD5 and DD8 engines originate from the Medium-Duty Engine Generation, for short: MDEG, which was developed by Daimler Trucks in Germany for the demanding emissions standard Euro VI. When the DD5 and DD8 are introduced in the market this year, they will already meet the standard for greenhouse emissions in the North American Region, GHG17. The medium-duty four-and six-cylinder engines use standardized components like the cylinder head and cylinder block, connecting rods and cam shafts. Both transmissions will be used in the overall product portfolio of Daimler Trucks North America in the future. The engines will be made in Detroit starting from 2018; prior to that the Mercedes-Benz engine plant in Mannheim will deliver the engines.

The new DD5 (shown on this picture) and DD8 engines are a part of the medium-duty engine generation, in short: MDEG.

The powertrain accounts for a value added share of more than 50 percent in the commercial vehicles business. It thus significantly determines the economic success of a manufacturer in truck construction. Thus, the DT12 transmission – controlled by the Detroit Intelligent Powertrain Management – achieves a consumption advantage of up to three percent compared to a manual transmission. This is a convincing argument for customers in North America as well. As a result of the high demand, Daimler Trucks was able to further expand its role as market leader in the USA in 2015: The market share rose to around 40 percent (Class 6-8).

“This is an important step in the implementation of our global platform strategy. With the decisions, announced by us today, we will strengthen our competitive power of tomorrow,” additionally underscored Wolfgang Bernhard, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Daimler Trucks & Buses, in November 2015 at the festive ceremony for the start of local DT12 series production in Detroit.

At the last Annual Press Conference on February 4, Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of the Mercedes-Benz Cars Division said the following: “We are expanding our platform strategy. Since November the automated DT12 transmission has been produced locally and in series in Michigan – it was a best-seller on the US market in 2015. Now we are also introducing our medium-duty engines in the NAFTA Region. In addition, we are investing in a local production for the engines in Detroit from 2018.”

Feb 11, 2016
Janine Thiele