AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
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.
Daimler got caught with their pants down this year when Audi passed Mercedes-Benz for the first time in history to become the world’s number two luxury car maker. That won’t be the case if they have their way next year.
According to internal documents obtained by Automotive News, Daimler is spurring Mercedes to increase output by 13 percent next year to more than 1.4 millon passenger vehicles. Those numbers don’t include their Smart or soon-to-vanish Maybach brands. With those figured into the mix, the company projects 1.52 million vehicles next year, though a Daimler spokesperson declined to comment on the goals.
“Mercedes-Benz is going on the attack,” Daimler board member for manufacturing and procurement Wolfgang Bernhard said in a press release. “We are securing our path to the top by extensively investing in the expansion of our high-performance production network.”
Mercedes fell to third place this year despite breaking company records by selling 1.25 million cars and SUVs.
GALLERY: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class
[Source: Automotive News]
According to Jenny Gu, a Shanghai- based analyst at research firm LMC Automotive, the number of luxury cars sold in China for 2011 may increase by 39 percent to 939,000, overtaking Germany by 25,000.
That 2.7 percent margin might not seem like a lot, but Europe as a whole is on a downswing for premium products. China, on the other hand, is growing rapidly. Gu expects Chinese sales to increase 16 percent next year, eclipsing the forecast 4.4 percent for Germany.
“Luxury car demand is still on the rise in China with low penetration rates,” Gu said to Bloomberg. “Sales of such cars in developed markets like Germany fluctuate together with the economic cycle.”
Despite BMW’s lead as the largest luxury manufacturer worldwide, Audi actually beats them in China— something they hope will boost them toward their goal to beat Bimmer for the top spot by 2015.
While it sure isn’t over until the lederhosen-laden fat lady sings, this year might serve as an indicator of things to come. Audi enjoyed a meteoric 69 percent sales spike in China this year, as compared to Mercedes-Benz‘ 24 percent and BMW with a measly 9.8 percent growth.
Those numbers seem to have BMW and Mercedes scrambling, both automakers will keep their plants open an additional week this year by limiting holiday closures. Audi, on the other hand, will enjoy the full two weeks that the other two have forgone for a second year running.
Though some analysts are predicting a softening in the Chinese market thanks to stricter mortgage regulation, Olaf Kastner, CEO of BMW’s Chinese venture, Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. doesn’t seem concerned.
“The premium car industry has enjoyed over the past two to three years an amazing growth,” Kastner said to Bloomberg. “We still, in the premium segment, will see a higher growth rate than the mass segment” for next year.
[Source: Automotive News]