Don’t head to the optometrist just yet. If the parking lot outside the California Pizza Kitchen and P.F. Chang’s seems particularly crowded with Mercedes-Benz SUVs, you’re probably seeing just fine.
The company had some good news to release with the new year, they managed to surpass the 2 million SUVs sales mark. According to a press release, the company enjoyed significant growth in SUV sales in 2011 thanks to the U.S. and China. SUV sales were up 24.3 percent compared to 2010 and additionally the company saw a 23.5 percent sales spike in November.
“With the launch of our first sport utility vehicle – the G‑Class – more than 30 years ago, we entered a segment in which we are now very successful with a total of five models. The SUVs today are an important pillar of Mercedes-Benz’s growth and have regularly posted a new sales record in every month since July 2010,” Joachim Schmidt, Mercedes’ head of sales and marketing, said.
While it may have taken the company 30 years to reach that number, luxury SUVs have really only been making a splash since the late 90’s with the introduction of the ML-Class. It may be easy to forget the rocky debut they had, but had some serous struggles making them a success. Questionable assembly and poor reliability in the not-so-distant past might still have some buyers feeling wary.
Nevertheless, it seems that suburban soccer moms and the expanding Chinese hunger for luxury cars is fuelling growth even with a shaky world economy. The R-Class boasted the biggest spurt with 50.3 percent sales growth this year, while the M-Class squeaked out 15.8 percent despite a model change.
Mercedes-Benz is still proud despite the M-Class taking last place in growth, calling it the latest star in their family. That pride comes part in parcel with the SUV having best fuel efficiency in its segment and receiving a five-star rating by the European New Car Assessment Programme for its safety.
Despite the accolades, we weren’t particularly impressed with the 2012 M-Class. It’s not to say we hated it, but the new model isn’t much to write home about either. Mild improvements thanks to direct injection and a scrapped hydraulic steering system were nice, but less than revolutionary. Mercedes-Benz isn’t falling short, but they didn’t jump ahead of the pack with this one either.