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Mercedes GLE to increase sales in new generation

Benz banks on fresh GLE outperforming predecessor but cautious about toppling X5

9 Aug 2019

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific (MBAP) expects the second-generation GLE large SUV to eventually outsell its predecessor, citing strong initial interest, although it stopped short of suggesting a tilt at segment leadership is on the cards anytime soon.


Speaking to journalists last week at the GLE national media launch in Chewton, Victoria, MBAP head of media relations and product communications Jerry Stamoulis was coy about GLE’s chances of toppling archrival BMW’s best-selling X5 in the $70,000-plus large-SUV segment.


“It would be great to be on top of every segment, but … our priorities are having an option there for customers,” he said. “If it’s GLA, GLB, GLC, we have an SUV for most people.


“If we feel that we’re losing sales to X5, specifically in this GLE segment, I think we’ll be able to make a better decision on that once we see a full 12-month run on this model.”


Sales of GLE have taken a significant hit this year in the lead up to the new model’s release, with 551 examples sold to the end of July – a massive 55.6 per cent decrease over the 1240 deliveries made during the same period in 2018.


As a result, GLE has fallen to seventh position in its segment, trailing X5 (1990 units) and the Range Rover Sport (1516), Lexus RX (1135), Porsche Cayenne (839), Land Rover Discovery (776) and Volvo XC90 (735).


Much of X5’s success can be attributed to its fourth-generation model’s arrival in November last year, with its volume up 17.7 per cent in the first seven months of this year. As such, it is on track to secure a comfortable wire-to-wire victory in the annual sales race.


MBAP actually fields two competitors in the segment, with GLE’s ‘coupe’ sibling also in the mix, but even if its 252 sales in the year to date were taken into account, the company’s share (8.9%) is still well off that of the class leaders. Plus, BMW also has a second model in the sloped-back X6 (122 units).


When asked by GoAuto what MBAP’s overall sales target is for GLE in its first year on the market, Mr Stamoulis said the large SUV’s performance will be dependent on the market, with the segment it plays in having contracted by 18.9 per cent in the first seven months of 2019.


“We’re confident it’ll exceed the previous model in sales,” he said. “I won’t give specific numbers, but the market will dictate what happens with this vehicle.


“We know that interest is very strong in the GLE.”


Critically, the next-generation GLE Coupe is set to join its wagon counterpart in Mercedes-Benz showrooms next year, with it routinely accounting for about a quarter of the German brand’s sales in $70,000-plus large-SUV class.


Meanwhile, Mr Stamoulis said that of the fresh GLE wagon’s three launch variants, the diesel GLE400d flagship ($118,142 plus on-road costs) is likely to take the largest share of sales, although it may not be dominant.


“Historically, the 350d – which is now the 400d – has been the biggest seller, but we may see that spread, even down to the 300d now,” he said.


The $99,900 GLE300d oil-burner once again serves as the large SUV’s entry-level offering, with mid-range honours held by the $111,341 petrol GLE450. The latter is expected to be a larger factor as buyers continue to move away from diesel engines (see separate story).

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