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Mercedes-Benz prospers as best-selling premium brand

By Li Fusheng | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-13 08:23
A Mercedes-AMG is displayed at the 2nd China International Import Expo in Shanghai. [Photo by Li Fusheng/China Daily]

Sales of namesake marque and smart grow 4 percent despite headwinds last year

Mercedes-Benz's China sales grew 4 percent year-on-year in 2019 amid an overall slowdown in the country's sluggish car market, helping the German brand clinch the premium vehicle sales crown.

China's overall market had fallen since late 2018 and total sales in the first 11 months this year fell 9 percent year-on-year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Despite the headwinds, it delivered a total of 702,088 vehicles under the Mercedes-Benz and smart brands in China, which has been its largest market since 2015, the Stuttgart-based carmaker said on Wednesday.

Deliveries of Mercedes-branded vehicles grew 6.2 percent year-on-year to 693,443 units in 2019, becoming the most premium vehicle brand in the country.

Hubertus Troska, a board member of Daimler AG responsible for China region, called the year "remarkable" for the company's operations in China, which contributed nearly one third of its global sales.

Mercedes-Benz sold 2.45 million vehicles globally last year, with Mercedes-branded ones totaling 2.34 million.

The carmaker said its steady growth was the result of its strong product portfolios, continuous efforts to deepen its localization strategy and healthy, customer-centric operations.

In 2019, Mercedes-Benz introduced over 15 new or face-lifted models into China.

Its joint venture Beijing Benz Automotive Co is producing eight passenger cars, which contribute to around three quarters of the brand's total sales in the country. Beijing Benz started to produce its electric vehicle, the EQC SUV, in late 2019.

Last year was billed as the Year of SUVs for Mercedes-Benz in China. With an extensive customer base and strong offensives throughout the year, the SUV family accounted for about one third of the brand's total sales in the Chinese market.

Mercedes-Maybach S-Class vehicles grew as well. The company said the model set a new global sales record in 2019, while China once again became the world's largest market for this model.

Since it hit the market in 2015, China has contributed to about two thirds of its global sales, said the carmaker. Mercedes also held the global premiere of the Maybach GLS SUV in China late last year.

"We will continue to offer attractive and competitive products, top quality and convenient services," said Jan Madeja, president and CEO of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co. The company said it is confident in the long-term prospects of the Chinese car market, which experts say will continue its downturn through at least 2020.

"Looking forward, we remain confident about the future prospects of China, and committed to further participating in the development of the Chinese automotive industry," Troska said. "We will continue to invest in deepening our footprints in local production and research and development to bring our Chinese customers more innovative products and services, including new energy vehicles."

A growing lineup of new energy vehicles is in the pipeline. Mercedes-Benz is expected to offer five electric models and more than 20 plug-in vehicles globally by the end of this year.

By 2030, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles will account for over half of its new car sales, the carmaker said.

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