Mercedes-Benz aims to recapture No. 1 spot in India by FY'16
Pune: Admitting that it had made mistakes in not recognising the potential of the lower luxury car segment in India, German auto major Mercedes Benz Friday said it aims to recapture the number one position by 2015-16 by bringing in new suitable products for the market.
The company, which has already launched the petrol version of its smaller car B-class, will be launching the diesel version of the car.
This will be along with another entry level luxury car A-Class in the first half of next year, to be followed by the new E-Class later.
It has, however, decided to go slow on plans to assemble the B-Class in India.
Moreover, many of the 13 brand new products that the company has announced to launch globally by 2015 will also be finding their way to the Indian market.
"We want to be the number one again in India by 2015-16. We do not have vehicles in certain segment of the luxury market in India right now. Perhaps, we made a mistake in not recognising it and reacted slowly to bring smaller vehicles in India," Daimler AG Vice President Sales (Mercedes Benz Cars) Matthias Luhrs told reporters here.
When asked how the company planned to beat rivals like BMW and Audi, which is also gunning for the top spot, he said the company had been lacking in the smaller products segment and that was being rectified.
"Starting with the B-Class, we have started addressing that issue. Next year we will have the A-Class in India (both in diesel and petrol). Also, globally we have announced that 13 new products with no previous lineage will be launched by 2015. Many from them could be coming to India," Lhurs said.
Mercedes Benz currently does not have a product to compete with the likes of BMW's X1 and Audi's Q3 in the smaller SUV category in India.
Compatriot BMW had snatched the numero uno ranking in the Indian luxury car market from Mercedes-Benz in 2009 and has been maintaining the position since then.
Another German luxury car maker Audi is, however, racing fast and aims to be the leader in the next few years. It reported 89 percent jump in sales in November at 805 units and crossed the 8,000 units sales mark that it had set for 2012, a month ahead of schedule.
Lhurs said the company expected the Indian market to be slow in the next two years due to the overall global economic situation but would pick up after that.
"For us, India and China are going to be the growth drivers for the next decade. India has a huge potential and we want to have a sustainable profitable growth here," he added.On the proposed India-EU free trade agreement and its
impact on the company, Lhurs said: "Even if there is an agreement, we do not expect the duties to come down immediately and the investments that we are making in India are for the 5-10 years."
Sounding bullish on the Indian market, the new Managing Director and CEO of Mercedes Benz India Eberhard H Kern said: "We already have a strong foundation and a team here. We understand there is a demand for diesel vehicles in India and we will bring those models apart from strengthening our sales and service network."
When asked about the company's plans for assembling more models in India, Kern said as of now Mercedes Benz India is assembling some of its models including the C-Class, E-Class and the S-Class, but didn't comment on plans for the same with B-Class.
A company official said the company has decided to go slow on plans to assemble the B-Class in India.
Kern said due to the tough market conditions, Mercedes Benz India is expected to have lower sales this year than last year and said the company "will not play the discount game to drive volumes."
For the entire 2011, Mercedes-Benz's sales increased by 27.69 percent to 7,430 units from 5,819 units in 2010.