CHENNAI, INDIA. With expectations that India will be the world’s second largest truck market by 2020, Daimler Trucks has invested over $900 million here to launch a new brand with eight initial new models built at a green-field plant capable of producing 36,000 trucks a year.

“The center of gravity in our industry is shifting,” said Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche at opening ceremonies for the new Oragadam truck plant. "For more than a hundred years, Europe, the U.S. and later Japan were pretty much the only markets that mattered. For over a century, you could be the number one truck, car or bus manufacturer without selling a single vehicle here in India. But not anymore.”

The plant and the new BharatBenz brand also illustrates the value of the company’s “global strategy”  of drawing from commonly developed technology to develop trucks for specific markets, according to Andreas Renschler, head of the Daimler Trucks Division.

The first four new BharatBenz light-duty trucks draw from Daimler’s Fuso brand, using modified Fuso Canter cab and engine with a modified Fuso Canter medium-duty chassis. Its initial four heavy-duty models are based on the Mercedes-Benz Axor cab and 6.4L 6-cyl. diesel.

The new plant also draws from the company’s global production experience, combining process and technologies to “to set a new production standard at Daimler Trucks,” Renschler said. Situated on a 400-acre site, the new plant will build both trucks and engines when it begins producing its first trucks in September. It also includes a full R&D facility complete with a high-speed test track.  While initial capacity is set at 36,000 trucks a year, it can be expanded to double that number, he said.

With 70 dealerships already in place and another 40 expected by September, the first BharatBenz truck will be a heavy-duty model in September, according to a spokesperson for Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler Trucks. Plans call for adding two additional models every two months until it is producing four light and four medium-duty trucks.  By 2014, the new brand will have 17 models ranging from 6 to 49 tons on sale in India, he said.