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Mercedes increasing right-hand-drive focus

In focus: After not having an offering in the popular mid-size SUV segment in Australia, Mercedes will finally have an Audi Q5 rival with the GLC arriving later this year.

Right-hand-drive portfolio vital for continued global expansion, says Mercedes

30 Jun 2015


MERCEDES-BENZ will be offering an increasing number of options for right-hand-drive markets around the world with Australia one of the nations set to benefit from the greater selection of three-point models.

In previous years, the relatively small number of right-hook markets has limited the number of offerings that come Down Under, but the German car-maker says with overall volumes increasing and more “flexible” architecture it will respond to increasing demand.

Speaking at the global debut of the new GLC mid-sized SUV in Germany, Daimler AG board member and head of Mercedes-Benz research and development Thomas Weber said the company’s target to be the number one luxury car brand would need the help of right-hand-drive markets.

“Right-hand-drive markets are fast growing and being number one is only possible if we tackle all markets so we need right-hand drive,” he said.

 center imageLeft: Daimler AG board member and head of Mercedes-Benz research and development Thomas Weber.

“If that’s the important segment we have to go for right-hand drive.

“Maybe not for all variants and line-ups but left and right-hand dive is the entry ticket to launch a vehicle.”

Dr Weber used the GLK mid-sized SUV as an example of Mercedes losing significant sales by not being able to offer the vehicle to various countries, including high-rider-hungry Australia.

“That’s what we learned from GLK – without right-hand drive it's not salable in Great Britain, Australia etcetera,” he said.

“Yes the volumes per se are much smaller. There was a time where Mercedes was 700,000 per year and now we are far above double so the volume by itself is bigger.”

Dr Weber explained that changes in the way Mercedes vehicles are designed have made it far easier to produce models in both right- and left-hand orientation.

“The other argument is our vehicle architecture has improved and is much more flexible with modular design,” he said. “If there is a target it’s easier from the beginning to install left- and right-hand drive.

“If you start too late the costs are much higher. If you do it from the beginning, from an engineering point of view it’s not so complex.”

Mercedes has recently confirmed that it will breach new territory for the three-pointed star and introduce a competitor in the light-commercial vehicle segment, and while the pick-up has not yet been confirmed for Australia, Dr Weber all but confirmed it.

“For Australia the pick-up is great,” he said. “We believe there is a clear demand for pick-ups.

“A huge market in the US and Australia – (is) enough to decide to go into a premium vehicle in this market segment.”

If it does launch on Australian soil, the ute will be the first for Mercedes and will bump gloves with the only other European option, Volkswagen’s Amarok.

Depending on the model’s price, it may also steal some attention from the other big-hitters such as Toyota’s HiLux and the increasingly popular Ford Ranger.

While the GLK never made it to Australia, Mercedes has confirmed its replacement – the GLC – will be manufactured in both right and left-hand-drive configurations, and will be sold here allowing the company to compete in the significant mid-sized SUV segment.

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