Whenever daimler leader ola klleniustook to a las vegas stage with film-maker james cameron in january to reveal an avatar-inspired mercedes-benz that tips far to the future, executives at the century-old groups headquarters were even more preoccupied using current.

Burdened with billions of euros in expenses regarding airbag recalls and alleged emissions manipulation, pre-tax profit had dropped over 60 % in 2019 as the company necessary to fund its late push into electric cars. after that arrived the pandemic, plant closures and another share price dive.

But because of the end of summer, hardly per year after using the top task, mr kllenius and his main economic officer harald wilhelm had taken down just what many investors thought impossible.

Within worst sales one-fourth possibly since world war two, we were cashflow positive, the 51-year-old swede informed the financial occasions.we modified our manufacturing so rapidly that notwithstanding covid-19 we lowered our stock along with an improved working capital stability at the conclusion of summer than we had after march.

A rapid recovery in china, daimlers biggest market, assisted restrict losses to 1.7bn when it comes to quarter, as performed its relatively reduced experience of a number of the worst-hit areas, like south usa.

Column chart of no-cost cash flow from professional division* (bn) showing daimler

After becoming accused by shareholders of overseeing a missing year, and risking big fines from brussels by neglecting to somewhat cut fleet-wide carbon emissions, indicators of intent came in rapid succession from mr klleniuss boardroom.

In recent months daimler announced it can sell its smart plant in france; satisfied outstanding united states dieselgate instances for roughly $2.2bn; invested in chinese electric battery mobile maker farasis; and launched a jv with volvo to produce hydrogen vehicles while shelving its ill-fated hydrogen vehicle task.

Unlike rival volkswagen, which includes ruled out using the services of technology leaders to build software because of its new cars, daimler joined forces with nvidia to build up autonomous operating technology. mr klleniustold the ft the carmaker could be open to additional partnerships to get rate, to gain technological benefit, to share with you threat.

People have begun to think the executive duo may be getting enough energy to drive through the companys long-awaited cost-savings plan, including axing at least 10,000 jobs global.

Weve turned from becoming one of the most outspoken experts to saying we think they can do so, said michael muders, a portfolio supervisor at institutional investor union, a daimler shareholder.

Driving the optimism is an extensively held hope that the coronavirus crisis helps mercedes handle a millstone who has hung round the three-pointed celebrity since the period of previous manager dieter zetsche a tasks guarantee that shields approximately 130,000 daimler employees in germany, in which labour costs are high, throughout the decade.

The unions realize that they must move, additionally the board realises so it features to be able to renegotiate the contract, said ingo speich, a portfolio supervisor at shareholder deka.

Within regard it certainly helps you to do have more pressure on expenses the management got a little bit of a tailwind through the crisis for these types of renegotiations.

Column chart of profits (bn) showing daimler sales

While he established mercedes most recent flagship s-class saloon on wednesday, mr klleniussaid daimlers restructuring would must get a little bit deeper, although he declined to express what number of even more tasks would go.

He stated the pandemic had revealed the automobile industry for just what it is: very capital-intensive, very high break-even points way too high for daimler, for mercedes, incorporating your carmaker needed seriously to increase upon effectiveness.

But he stated daimler can rely on very early your retirement and all-natural attrition to slim its staff.

I think the past time we in fact officially set somebody down in germany ended up being in the sixties, he said.

Nevertheless, the move that led unions to extract the work agreement from mr zetsche the establishment of a holding structure encompassing daimlers automobiles, trucks and funding hands features cost the organization 1bn. the figure is placed to rise by 150m-200m per year, in accordance with mr muders, because of the discounts ultimate objective still out-of sight.

The debate was: we are creating a keeping structure to float the vehicles business, but this never ever taken place, he stated. other investors have advised the organization to consider detailing at least a little share regarding the unit over the following 12 months.

For the time being, mr klleniusseems more intention on moving mercedes on from what he as soon as branded peak complexity, and decreasing the quantity of models and alternatives it offers.

The ultra-compact smart brand should be moved to asia, in which it's going to be made by geely, daimlers biggest shareholder with a near 10 per cent share. the a-class sedan will no longer be manufactured outside germany.

We shall adjust the profile towards the highest pockets of profitability, mr klleniussaid, adding that mercedes wasn't gonna chase volume in lower-margin compact segments which we have been prepared to eradicate designs that individuals do not think meet up with the profitability targets.

The covid-19 crisis, he said, made him question: whats your core business? exactly what can you spend money on? whats your competitive strength? how can you make sure that you develop upon that?

The answer is a renewed concentrate on the luxury companies traditional high-margin models, as well as on just what could prove its breakthrough electric automobile, after a disappointing product sales start because of its first modern battery-powered car.

The eqs, an emissions-free type of the s-class because of be revealed the following year, could have a variety of 700km, mr klleniussaid, really outpacing also market leader tesla for which daimler when presented an almost 10 % stake.

Line chart of market limit (bn) showing daimler

Moreover for mercedes margins, the design is the very first to be built which consists of modular skateboard system.

The moment of truth are when they have actually a platform for electrification you can use on a bigger scale to get more models, said dekas mr speich. bmw is far forward, and vw also.

Daimlers problem usually it must rapidly gain ground in the electric competition while gratifying people regularly handouts until recently it absolutely was europes sixth-biggest dividend payer.

If daimler ended up being a personal company, they'd state: no dividends, had been doubling upon opportunities, and in 3 years time we'll have a much better business, said angus tweedie, an analyst at citi.

Unlike many business projections, mr klleniusis adamant the proceed to electric automobiles wont destroy daimlers position into the vehicle economic climate, and that the business find yourself with about equivalent healthy margins it offers previously.

Today comes the heavy lifting, the change for the auto industry, he said. thats something which will be with us with this whole ten years.

Additional reporting by peter campbell in london