Monday, July 30, 2012

Mercedes to replace BMW as a top luxury brand

Mercedes to replace BMW as a top luxury brand

Alex Domanski / Reuters

Daimler AG of CEO Dieter Zetsche enters a new Mercedes a-Klasse car at the Mercedes plant in Rastatt, Germany.

By Paul A. Eisenstein, NBCNews-Le
It is one of the most bitter battles on the American automobile market, and it pits two of Germany's luxury automakers in a grab for the brass ring. But in this Jahr Mercedes-Benz is betting that it can topple rival BMW to the best selling automotive luxury brand in the world's largest end market.

But Mercedes volume alone is not the measure of success, said top American Executive. The producer is looking for a significant increase in which she hopes in the future it also as leader on the gross margins will position.

And key to the growth, Mercedes-Benz said U.S. Chief Executive Steve Cannon, a wave of new products, which cover not only is existing market segments, but also some "white space" ranges, where the luxury manufacturers currently do not take part.

"The breadth and depth our positioning one of our strategic advantage", said cannon.

The Executive has much of the week in Santa Fe, spent where their first drive in the second generation GL sport utility vehicle will be Mercedes automotive journalists. He joins an array new updated models such as the larger G cars, smaller GLK and the brand best selling truck, the ML.

If the latter model was introduced a little more than ten years, skeptics scoffed. But it was not the first time Mercedes conventional wisdom had set boundaries, entering a new segment. It took several years of debate before it launched the compact c-class in the 1980s in the life. This model is now one of the strongest offerings of the German manufacturer.

Meanwhile, the U.S. sales of Mercedes is now almost 45 percent the ML, GL and the rest of the SUV lineup. And sales Alabama, United States even higher, Cannon claimed there would be no capacity bottlenecks in the Assembly plant of in nearby Tuscaloosa by the automaker, would be. The industry average of 60 to 65 days a 26-day supply of the ml dealers currently have on the one hand – less than half.

Dieter Zetsche, Leiter Mercedes-Benz cars, explains whether Mercedes US production will increase. It also checks how Europe its debt crisis is management.

Some people surprised, might the strong demand for Mercedes crossover/SUV models because in the run-up of in fuel prices this year. As the numbers on the pump over $4 per gallon in some markets forecasts would put - with some analysts the numbers eventually nudge $5 and even $6 - total light truck sales shortly fulled. However, since prices in early April reached, demand has largely.

This is not to say that Mercedes ignored the possible disruption may have a different oil tip. Still the hard they can the impact of new emissions and mileage standards will be adopted to discard in major markets such as the United States, Europe, Japan and China.

"they need smaller cars," says Cannon, a West point graduate and former artillery officer.

The automaker recently has a hint of what the store at the lower end of the market is, where he completely updated its smallest model, the a-class. And, significantly, at least a version - the coupelike CLA sedan - provided for the first time of one of the a-class models in the United States come to the US market

Such models are not supposed to just to satisfy the demands of the authorities but meets the needs of a new generation of buyers, the smaller search - and decidedly high-tech products. Mercedes has traditionally positioned leader in technology as, and it invested billions to the brand image to get. The new GL, leads, for example, features such as collision avoidance and crosswind stabilisation. The former can a driver, to a potential crash of the latter, the great crossover in his eyes even in the harshest storm helps keep warn.

But what can appeal more Gen-X and millennial luxury first-time buyers is the mBrace2-Infotainment system, the couple can use Smartphone apps with a driver such as Pandora through the car sound system to play - and even voice commands for SMS.

While new products and technologies for Mercedes growth plans of crucial importance will be Cannon conceded that the manufacturer of the way treated, must improve in customers the Bay of showroom and service. "When we look in the mirror and to be honest we have to admit that we do not do well enough," he said.

The manufacturer has a series of meetings with dealers the country staging were to improve the sales processing. Traders who have in turn approximately 1.50 billion $ to more than 90 percent of U.S. showrooms to update. The results seem paid be.

"Mercedes is setting standards," said Fran O' Hagan, the Pied Piper bypass prospective study used to measure thousands of so-called "mystery shoppers", such as manufacturers of the sales and service of process. Mercedes released its brave competitors such as BMW, Lexus and Audi in results this month.

And that has apparently helped to win it a leg up on BMW. It held a 2,000-unit ahead of the Bavarian automaker in the first half of 2012 after almost losing the U.S. luxury sales Crown 2011. Anything can happen especially when rival BMW or Lexus ramp up incentives to admit issues, Mercedes officials. But it is clear that they are ready, pull the big guns, the ring this time access.

Ironically, Cannon given to this being no 1 probably "no longer a car for the brand sell" Although Americans like to assign winners. All the more important, the Executive said, is to ensure maximum margins, by to protect the image of the vaunted Mercedes Tri-Star badge.

"Profitability is more important in any case," agreed analyst Aaron land Bragman, IHS consulting, even though he thinks Mercedes 'probable' hilltop luxury this year.

And the key to maintain, he said, is to ensure that new products such as CLA - and updated offers such as the next-generation S-class and updated E-class next year are available - to beat expectations of customers.

CNBC's Phil LeBeau has the story on two luxury auto brands racing for the number one spot this year.

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