New Delhi: German luxury carmaker Mercedes- Benz on Thursday said it will increase its employee strength in the Indian research and development wing by up to two-third to 500 people by 2010.
The Indian subsidiary of the carmaker is also planning to launch a new variant of its E-Class sedans withing this year.
“Our R&D centre in Bangalore is the largest one outside Germany. It is fully integrated with our global operations. We are planning to increase the staff strength to between 400 and 500 by the end of 2010,” Mercedes-Benz India managing director and CEO Wilfried Aulbur told reporters in Delhi.
Mercedes-Benz India currently employs 300 people in its R&D centre, he added.
The Bangalore R&D centre is engaged in activities like computer simulation, design, electrical and electronics and IT services related to vehicle development.
On its product launches, Aulbur said the company would launch a new E-Class sedan with multiple variants during the remaining half of 2009 to consolidate its position in the luxury car market.
Mercedes-Benz India today launched a special edition of its C-Class car, priced between Rs28.46 lakh and Rs31.30 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), in both petrol and diesel variants.
The company plans to produce only 60 units of this special edition vehicle in order to maintain exclusivity.
“We hope to consolidate our leadership position in the luxury car segment, which is expected to reach 8,000 units by this year end. We are very optimistic about the E- Class and believe that it, along with our C-Class variants, will drive the company to big growths during 2010,” Aulbur said.
The company, which enjoys about 36-38% share of the Indian luxury car market, had sold 3,625 units last year. It sold 1,630 units in January-July period of 2009.
During the first seven months of this year, the company’s dominance has been challenged by rival German car maker BMW, which sold 2,008 units in the period.
“The first half of the year was not as good as we would have expected, but we hope for a turnaround in the second half. However, we have not fixed any targets as regards to sales for the year,” Aulbur said.
On its A-Class cars, which the company had announced to roll out in India, Aulbur said: “We have not scrapped the plan for introducing A-Class in India. Rather, we are currently putting our focus on the C-Class, which is the highest selling luxury model in the Indian market.”
Asked about alternate fuel technology, Aulbur said the company would not launch any vehicle in the near future although it has the capability to introduce CNG cars.
The company had recently announced plans to invest Rs150 crore for expanding its retail network over next 18 months, mainly in Tier II cities. It has 12 dealerships in 25 cities across the country.