Daimler: Shift to electric cars non-negotiable despite virus

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Employees of the Hungarian bus maker ITK Holding work at the plant in Debrecen, Hungary, Thursday, April 09, 2020. The company that makes Mercedes-Benz Reform 500 LE buses has restarted production following a two-week shutdown because of the coronavirus outbreak. The premises have been sanitized and the materials coming in from their suppliers are also disinfected. During the shutdown workers were put on paid leave. (Zsolt Czegledi/MTI via AP)

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Germany’s Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars, made only a small profit in the first quarter of 2020 as the company shut down factories and shifted into cash preservation and cost management mode during the coronavirus crisis.

The company’s CEO said Wednesday the Stuttgart-based automaker was now engaging in a gradual re-start of production — and would continue its investment in electric cars and digitalization. He called the shift to new technologies “non-negotiable” despite the severe disruption from the virus outbreak.

Net profit was 168 million euros ($182 million), down from 2.1 billion euros in the same quarter a year earlier. Revenue fell to 37.2 billion euros from 39.7 billion euros in the first quarter of 2019.

CEO Ola Kallenius said that “now we have started with a gradual ramp-up of our production.”

“At the same time,” he said, “we are continuing to invest in key technologies, including electrification and digitalization. They are non-negotiable elements of our future.”

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