Mercedes-Benz plans SUV assault

words - Bruce Newton
Global luxury sales leadership dependant on boosting SUV share and sales

The launch of Mercedes-Benz new GLA compact cross-over signals the start of a dramatic push by the luxury German brand to increase SUV sales to 800,000 or more by 2020.

The SUV boom will come on the back of more sales of existing models, but also strong contributions from the likes of the GLA and coupe-like spin-offs of the ML and next-generation GLK, reportedly dubbed MLC and GLC respectively. The strategy is clearly aimed at rivals BMW and Audi which have both exploited the rise in global SUV sales much more energetically in recent years and pushed past Benz in total global sales.

Currently, Benz passenger cars outsell SUVs at a ratio of about three-to-one, which equates to about 350,000 SUVs. But the company wants to lift SUVs to at least 40 per cent of combined volume by 2020.

Its 2020 growth strategy calls for total passenger car and SUV sales of two million that year, which means SUVs will be generating 800,000 sales or more by that time if targets are hit.

If it all adds up, Benz intends to be back as the leading sales player in the global luxury vehicle market by 2020.

Mercedes-Benz board member for car development Dr Thomas Weber revealed the ambitious growth targets for SUVs at last week’s GLA launch in Spain while also dropping broad hints about future (as yet unrevealed) SUV models.

“The SUV segment is definitely growing, so today we have about 25 per cent and we will definitely go to 40 per cent,” Weber said.

“I would say these types of vehicles, the share will grow, and when we come from 25 to 30 per cent I see at least a potential for 40 per cent and higher.”

The Benz SUV line-up currently includes the G-Class, full-size GL, mid-size ML, compact GLK and the new GLA. A second generation GLK based on the new MRA architecture, with right-hand drive capability for the first time, will be added in 2015. The MLC, a rival for the BMW X6, could show as soon as late 2014 along with an ML facelift and go on-sale in 2015.

The GLC, which would line up against the forthcoming BMW X4, would come later.

All existing Mercedes-Benz SUVs are expected to at least be facelifted by the end of 2016.

“Stay tuned,” Weber teased.

“We are not here to unveil all our plans, but … there are other field besides the M-Class for example.

“Of course there are opportunities and we are close to giving you a few more details on the SUV segment,” he told motoring.com.au.

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Published : Friday, 14 February 2014
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