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GLC stock issues hurting Benz sales

Waiting game: Benz will start to build the GLC in the US later this year, which should take some of the pressure off the Bremen, Germany factory that supplies the Australian market.

Global demand impacts Mercedes-Benz’s GLC stock Down Under

Mercedes-Benz logo29 May 2017

STOCK issues of key models are impacting Mercedes-Benz sales this year, but the German luxury car-maker insists that it will exceed last year’s record haul.

Massive global demand for the popular GLC mid-size SUV, and its GLC Coupe sibling, has pushed the Bremen, Germany factory to capacity and created a waiting list for Australian customers.

Benz launched the GLC in Australia in late 2015 and it quickly became a smash hit, recording 4454 sales in 2016, enough for it to rocket to the top of the premium mid-size SUV segment in its first full year on sale.

In the first four months of 2017, sales have plummeted by 50 per cent for a haul of 1042 units, placing it fifth in the segment.

Benz will start building the GLC for the US market at its Tuscaloosa, Alabama plant later this year and it has already confirmed that it has outsourced some production to auto manufacturer, Valmet, in Finland, kicking off this year.

Speaking with GoAuto at the E-Class Coupe launch last week, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific manager of public relations and product communications Jerry Stamoulis said stock issues were to blame for the sales downturn, but added that production in the US this year should take some pressure off the German plant.

“There will be changes with regards to production once the US start building their own,” he said “Though it is not the biggest seller for them, it will take some pressure off. GLC demand globally has peaked. So we are only getting what we can.

“If you walk into a dealership for GLC now you would probably have to wait four to six months.

“You know what that segment is doing. It is very frustrating.” The GLC is now trailing Land Rover Discovery Sport (1724), Range Rover Evoque (1229), BMW X3 (1051) and Lexus NX (1050) so far this year, but it remains ahead of the Audi Q5 (709) which will be replaced by an all-new model in July.

Mr Stamoulis said the company’s Australian arm was hamstrung until production spreads to the other Benz plants, and added that the GLC Coupe was also impacted by the stock shortages.

“It is a real tease. It is the one product we are very confident we could double the numbers on. The comfortable number on that car is about 400 per month. We are around the low-200s. It is the same with (GLC) Coupe. I think if Coupe came out of a different factory and there were no issues, you would see it up that high as well.”

He said he was unsure when the stock would start flowing more freely, but added: “We will be in a better position next year.”

Mr Stamoulis would not be drawn on an overall sales target for Benz this year and said the fact that there are no major volume model launches in 2017 could have an impact.

“It comes down to stock on a few models. We don’t have a new C-Class this year.

We have GLA facelift and that will continue to do what it is currently doing and maybe a little bit more. That was another one with stock issues. We could definitely have sold more this year.

“We don’t have those volume cars. We do have volume cars next year, such as C-Class facelift as well. It is hard to say where E-Class is going, what (E-Class Coupe) will do. We might see some movement on C-Class this year. It may take up slack.” When asked if Benz could top last year’s record haul of 41,226 units in 2017, Mr Stamoulis said the strong sales of AMG models would help push it over the line.

“I think we will. We have good stock of AMGs now, we had some restrictions last year. That has freed up now. We are doing about 100 or so C63 Coupes a month.

That is our number one selling AMG model. Regardless of 43 or 45 models.”

Compared with last year, the second half of 2017 is relatively quiet for Benz in Australia.

July marks the arrival of the facelifted GLA crossover, while the fire-breathing GT R and GT Roadster performance cars lob in August.

The E-Class Cabriolet is set for a November launch and the facelifted S-Class hits town in December.

It follows a busy couple of months for Benz that has seen the launch of the E-Class Coupe, E-Class All-Terrain wagon and the brutal AMG E63 S sedan.

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