From the peaks of 15,330 unit sales in CY2017 and 15,538 in 2018, sales of Mercedes-Benz India cars dropped to 7,893 units in the pandemic-hit 2020.
The luxury car market itself has been contracting, from a high of about 39,000 units in 2017 (as per company reports), to 20,000-odd units in 2020. According to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, obstacles such as slow economic growth, growing liquidity pressure, and change in GST rates have impacted the sales of luxury cars in the country.
In 2021, however, market leader Mercedes-Benz believes it will cross the 10,000-unit sales mark on the back of economic growth and the introduction of “volume cars”. Martin Schwenk, MD & CEO, Mercedes-Benz India, told FE that since September 2020, the company has been seeing a V-shaped recovery. In Q4CY20, the German carmaker saw sales growing 40% over Q3.
“The demand has still not come back to pre-pandemic levels but isn’t far off either. While this year we may not be able to touch the numbers of 2019 (13,786 units), with new car launches planned we expect to get close,” he said. “This year we will complete our portfolio, once again.”
While the company increased car prices in the range of 5% January 15 onwards, it hasn’t seen demand tapering off. “I think that (price hike) has been accepted by the market,” Schwenk said. “We are right now at the lowest stock levels at the dealer-end, because of the strong demand we are seeing.”
Going forward, Schwenk said there are challenges such as the global semiconductor issue, but “we have until now been able to mitigate it and have been watching our supply chain closely”.
On Thursday, Mercedes-Benz launched the A-Class Limousine sedan, and will soon launch the GLA crossover SUV. Both entry-level models are expected to rake in higher sales numbers for the company. Its largest selling single model over the years has been the E-Class, which, Schwenk said, forms about 30% of the company’s sales.
The company also launched the made-in-India AMG A35 on Thursday. AMG is the company’s range of high-performance sports cars. The AMG portfolio in India now comprises the 35, 43, 53, 63 and GT series. Schwenk said the rationale behind locally producing AMG cars — even though these don’t sell in high volumes — is that this reduces their sticker price substantially, bringing in a new set of customers who see value in the product.
Mercedes-Benz will launch seven new AMG cars in India this year, and many of those will be localised.
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