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Benz on track for top-10 finish

Hot seller: After selling 4000 AMG models last year, Mercedes execs are confident of finishing 2016 with 5000 sales.

Mercedes likely to hit 40,000 sales but top-10 placing not a priority

Mercedes-Benz logo4 May 2016

MERCEDES-BENZ is aiming to hit 40,000 sales for the first time in Australia this year, but a company spokesperson said it is not aiming to beat Honda or Kia to a top-10 finish in 2016.

The German car-maker ended 2014 with 36,374 sales from its extensive line-up of passenger cars, SUVs and light-commercial vehicles, a record for the brand in Australia and 14 per cent more sales than it achieved in 2014.

Benz just missed out on a place in the top 10 last year – held off by perennial number 10, Honda, by 3726 units – but this year Korean car-maker Kia is also in the mix and aiming for a spot among the country's best-selling brands.

In sales to the end of April this year, Mercedes-Benz is in tenth place with 13,366, but Kia (12,574) and Honda (11,705) are both hot on its heels. Benz recorded 3303 sales in April, making it the ninth best-selling brand, ahead of Subaru for the month.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior public relations, product and corporate communications manager David McCarthy said the car-maker was not necessarily targeting a top-10 finish in 2016 and added that there were other measures of success.

“Will we beat Honda or Kia? I don't know,” he said at the C-Class Coupe media launch in the Yarra Valley last week. “It's a nice thing to have but it is only one very broad measure of your success.

“It's not a KPI (key performance indicator).

“Both those brands are working a lot harder. They’ve got some new product. They operate in a very different segment.”

Mr McCarthy said that the company's goal was “to sell every car we put our name against at a profit”, and predicted a strong finish for its AMG performance models in 2016.

“I think we will quite possibly do 5000 AMGs this year.

“As a brand, so including vans, we could well do 40,000 units.”

Mercedes-AMG has been competing with its Audi Sport and BMW M Performance rivals for dominance in the high-performance category, but Benz is also keen on topping the sales of another German car-maker, Porsche.

Last year Porsche sold 4090 cars in Australia and beat AMG by about 90 units but while Mr McCarthy has predicted a further 1000 units in 2016, Porsche sales are now 35.6 per cent ahead of where they were in the same period in 2015, which could be enough to leave AMG behind.

Mr McCarthy added that the Benz brand is enjoying sales leadership in a number of segments of the Australian new-car market.

“We lead in seven of the 10 segments we compete in. That's pretty good. And we are working on the other three. It is always going to be a challenge.”

The other three segments, according to Mr McCarthy, are the premium large-SUV market that is dominated by the BMW X5, beating the Benz GLE, the over $80,000 sportscar market, currently led by the BMW 4 Series, which is well ahead of the soon-to-be-replaced SLK, and the over $200,000 sportscar segment that is home to the SL Roadster but led by the Porsche 911.

There are however, two other segments that Benz does not lead – in premium compact SUVs it is third behind the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, while the S-Class now trails the BMW 7 Series year to date in the upper-large sedan segment.

When questioned about whether there was potential to trim down Mercedes' extensive and sometimes complex model line-up, Mr McCarthy said the company was happy with the number of variants as long as each one is sustainable.

“We have 100 variants. Each of those cars has to sustain itself. It has to have a business case. For example the E300 BlueTec hybrid. The business case for that car was 100 a year. We have done 100 a year while we have had it.

“One hundred variants is a lot. But they all sell well. It's always a challenge because dealers can't stock every variant, particularly the high-end cars, so we run a company demonstrator fleet. It'll have S63s, Coupes, SLs, high-level CLSs. If a customer wants to drive it the dealer can get one for them.”

Mr McCarthy added that Mercedes would always pursue new products and segments as it would ultimately benefit the business if a new model is successful.

“Every burrow, we send the ferret down because there is an opportunity. The more vehicles we sell within our existing structure, then the stronger it makes the business,” he said.

“It is the breadth of that business that is our strength. Not a weakness but a challenge. Because there are so many targets to hit and so many burrows, we run out of ferrets.”

He also denied that the sleek design of the tenth-generation E-Class – due in Australia later this year – made the swoopy CLS four-door coupe redundant, adding that there is room in the line-up for both.

“CLS has a market. It goes up, it goes down. There will be another CLS in a couple of years. It will evolve to be a bit different again.”

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