The country’s top luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz, which sold 13,231 units last year, is hopeful of a double-digit growth in 2017 as it expects the note ban impact to ebb soon. “With the effects of re-monetisation gradually driving in, we are hopeful that we will be able to maintain our sales momentum. Despite grave challenges like demonetisation and diesel ban, we achieved significant sales last year by selling 13,231 units,” Merc India managing director and chief executive Roland S Folger told PTI in an interview. He said the optimism comes from the overall pickup in the auto industry as seen in January sales. After a record breaking sales in 2015 at 13,503 units, its sales dipped a tad in 2016 to 13,231 units on diesel ban and the note ban.
On new launches, Folger without putting a number said, “we will continue our product drive to excite and grow the market. We will be introducing the long wheel base E-Class this month”. Last year the company had launched 13 models, one more than originally planned. “We will continue our aggressive stance in terms of product launches and network expansion in 2017,” Folger said. Whether Merc will have more locally-made models this year, he said Merc already has the largest number of locally manufactured models and one of the highest content localisation at 60 per cent.
“We will continue our localisation drive depending on the market requirement and add new products to the list of locally assembly. An example of our resolve in this regard is the new E-Class with long wheel base, which will be launched shortly,” he said, adding the company will many launches across body shapes and SUVs will be one of them. On the SUV front, which has been its largest volume driver in recent years, Folger said SUVs have some inherent advantages which are best suited for this market. Merc’s SUV portfolio grew a robust 20 per cent in 2016 and we see this trend continuing, he added.
Last year, the GLE Class emerged as the highest selling SUV in its portfolio followed by the GLA and GLS Class, Folger said, adding the C-Class sedan remains the largest selling model for the company, followed by the E-Class and the CLA Class. He also said ‘SUVisation’ of the market will continue saying “we want to believe that it should remain in the trend, at least for now. Indians have shown their affinity towards SUVs, hence the belief becomes stronger.”