Chennai, July 30 (IANS) Luxury car maker Mercedes Benz India is planning to launch new models, start a second shift and continue brand spend to stay ahead of competition in a market that is slated to grow at 50 percent this year.
The company is also looking forward to the launch of a finance arm by its parent company to finance purchase of first and second hand Mercedes models.
‘We have mapped various segments and will be launching new models in the vacant slots. The company will be launching a luxury sports utility vehicle (SUV) and models under performance segment. In the last seven months we have launched 16 products,’ Director (Sales and Marketing) Debashis Mitra told IANS.
‘The luxury car market will continue to outperform the overall car market sales this year as well. The segment is expected to log around 50 percent growth this year while the standard car segment is likely to log around 20 percent growth,’ he added.
According to him, sales of luxury cars are expected to touch around 13,000 units this year, up from around 8,500 units sold last year.
Stating that luxury car sales are driven not by price but by brand perception, choice and availability of financing options, Mitra refuted the talk that Mercedes is suffering a brand fatigue in the minds of prospective car buyers with the advent of new players like BMW, Audi and others.
‘It is true Mercedes has been in India ahead of serious competition. But it continues to have its brand appeal and certainly there is no brand fatigue. The numbers prove that. Between January-June 2010, we have sold around 2,450 units, far ahead of the competition,’ he said.
Asked about the company’s fall to the number two position in 2009 after BMW, he said: ‘It was expected due to the absence of our fast selling E class model contributing nearly 40 percent of the sales volume. We lagged behind BMW last year by 300 units.’
He said with the launch of new E Class late last year the company’s numbers are ticking fast.
‘During the first six months we have sold 1023 units of E Class. Sales of other models are – C Class 995 units, S Class 266 units, M Class 93 units, GL 47 units and others 25 units,’ he said.
Further, 2009 is the year of correction for the company as it changed its distribution partners in Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Mitra did not agree that Mercedes is a brand for middle aged and said the company’s customer age profile is between 35 and 50 – the ideal age a luxury car is bought by a buyer.
The company’s launch of Rs.2.5 crore sports car SLS AMG is expected to keep up its brand image which, he said,
signifies safety not only for the buyers but also for the financiers as the delinquency rates of vehicles financed is lower than that of competitive brands.
‘Perhaps existing Mercedes car owners are buying rival brands as their second/third car for the family,’ he added.
Last year the company sold around 3,250 cars utilising around 60 percent of its production capacity. With demand shooting up, Mercedes Benz is planning to start second shift at its Pune plant.
Mercedes Benz recently entered the pre-owned car business.