Los Cabos, Mexico. While the first three months of medium- and heavy-duty truck sales in North America will be “the toughest quarter,” the rest of the year should see steady growth. Total sales for the year “should be within 10% up or down of 2012,” according to Mark Lampert, sr. vp of sales and marketing for Daimler Trucks North America.

“It’s far from dead out there,” he said at a press briefing. “We’re not saying it’s strong, but there is a pretty good level of order [intake] and quote activity.”

Freightliner’s new Cascadia Evolution, which just went into production a month ago, already has a backlog of 9,300 orders, Lampert pointed out. “While the total numbers may be down, we’re striving to increase our market share this year by selling the same number of trucks as we did last year,” he said.  DTNA’s total NAFTA Class 6-8 sales for 2012 were just under 212,000 units.

One anticipated key to that gain will be operating cost efficiencies offered by a complete integrated powertrain, according to Lampert. “It gives us the ability to ideally tune the electronics of the engine with the electronics of the transmission to provide a package that provides enhanced fuel economy,” he said.

Scheduled to begin in about a month, production of the company’s Detroit DT12 automated mechanical transmission will fill in the gap between its current Detroit engine and axle offerings. Initially it will be available with the DD15 engine in the Cascadia Evolution, and DD13 availability will be added in the second half of the year.

Given the safety and performance benefits of automated mechanical transmission as well as the improved fuel economy, Lampert predicted AMTs would represent 35 to 40% of all heavy duty transmission by 2016.

Calling the new Detroit AMT part of “a vehicle integration strategy, not a vertical integration strategy,” David Hames, gm of DTNA marketing strategy said, “you have a payback equation now that makes sense.”

Predictive cruise control “is another good example of the benefits of vehicle integration that would be hard to replicate with non-proprietary components,” Hames said.