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Mercedes-Benz to play catch-up with BMW in India this year

Mercedes-Benz to play catch-up with BMW in India this year
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First Published: Mon, Jan 04 2010. 11 45 PM IST

New push: Wilfried Aulbur, managing director and chief executive, Mercedes-Benz India; and Debashish Mitra, director, sales and marketing, at the launch of the luxury sedan S500 L in New Delhi. Ramesh
New push: Wilfried Aulbur, managing director and chief executive, Mercedes-Benz India; and Debashish Mitra, director, sales and marketing, at the launch of the luxury sedan S500 L in New Delhi. Ramesh
Updated: Mon, Jan 04 2010. 11 45 PM IST
Mumbai: Mercedes-Benz India Ltd, the local unit of the German luxury car maker, said that it lost leadership position to rival BMW India Pvt. Ltd in 2009.
In the 12 months to December, the company’s sales declined 10.43% to 3,247 units, compared with BMW India’s 3,619. However, on the back of new model launches in the current year, Mercedes-Benz expects a high double-digit growth in the current calendar year.
New push: Wilfried Aulbur, managing director and chief executive, Mercedes-Benz India; and Debashish Mitra, director, sales and marketing, at the launch of the luxury sedan S500 L in New Delhi. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Wilfried Aulbur, managing director and chief executive, Mercedes-Benz India, attributed the sales decline to the non-availability of the E-Class, the entry-level model, which accounts for the bulk of sales for the company. The company only had 680 kits for the E-Class last year, he said.
According to Aulbur, Indians bought 9,000-10,000 luxury cars in 2009. He expects the segment to grow at a faster pace in the current year. Other players in the luxury car segment—which are priced upwards of Rs25 lakh—include Audi and Porsche, among others.
India, which has 120,000 dollar millionaires now, will produce more high net-worth individuals who will then be potential customers of Mercedes-Benz models, Aulbur said.
On Monday, the company launched new versions of its luxury sedan, the S500 L, and the GL 350 CDI, priced at Rs95 lakh and Rs64.9 lakh, respectively. While the S-Class will be assembled at its factory near Pune, the GL will be imported.
On whether the new model launches will help the company regain the leadership position, Aulbur said the company is not “pushing volumes and the focus will be on profitable growth”.
Abdul Majeed, partner at Price Waterhouse, believes that to regain the top slot, Mercedes-Benz will need to find out the concern areas among its customers. “It’s only a matter of time before they bounce back,” he said.
Aulbur said the company is in the process of revamping its dealership network, adding new ones and intensifying its engagement with customers at various levels.
Mercedes-Benz India, fully owned by Daimler AG, had been making cars and trucks in India since 1994, initially as a joint venture with the country’s largest vehicle maker, Tata Motors Ltd.
After the joint venture ended in 1997, the German firm had been making its C, E and S class cars at a facility it had leased from Tata Motors until the end of 2008. It launched a new facility in Pune in Maharashtra in February, in which it has invested Rs250 crore.
Reuters contributed to the story.
shally.s@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Jan 04 2010. 11 45 PM IST