Interview with Mercedes sales manager Schmidt
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Mr. Schmidt, 2009 was Your car sales have shrunk by around ten percent to 1.1 million vehicles. What are you planning for 2010?
Schmidt: We want this Year will grow slightly faster than the overall market, for which we are anticipating growth of three to four percent. In 2010 we are helped by innovations such as the new generation of the R-Class, further variants of the E-Class, such as the convertible and the T-Model, but also the new CL-Coupe and the high-tech four-cylinder engine for the S-Class. Because we are also feeling the trend towards smaller engines and want to balance this out by increasing performance and reducing consumption.
Are the three to four percent a rather conservative estimate?
Schmidt: I think a realistic one. Of course, I wouldn't defend myself against growth in the double-digit percentage range. But there are too many variables that we cannot make a final estimate yet.
Does the hoped-for increase in sales mean that you can end short-time working in Mercedes plants?
Schmidt: In the commercial vehicle sector, the market is sure not to offer that , but we have significantly reduced short-time working at the Mercedes-Benz Cars plants since the beginning of the year, or ended entirely. In Sindelfingen we have even needed more people since the beginning of the year in order to manage the very successful E-Class ramp-up for all variants, which is why we have temporarily sent employees from the Wörth plant to the main plant.
How is it going? Developing Mercedes in home market, where you were able to book around 283,000 new registrations in 2009 - and thus the world's highest market share in a single market of 7.4 percent?
Schmidt: We expect in Germany due to the discontinuation of the scrapping premium, a market decline of significantly more than ten percent; but we want to maintain our previous year's volume and will definitely gain market share.
How is it all over Western Europe?
Schmidt: In Western Europe - excluding Germany - we expect a market decline in the single-digit percentage range. The same applies to Mercedes here as in Germany: We want to at least maintain our volume and thus increase our market share.
How do you see the US market?
Schmidt : He's doing us nowJoy. We estimate that the total market will grow from 10.4 million to 11.5 million vehicles. And we want to grow disproportionately. The first months of the year show that we are doing very well there.
Are you going to expand your portfolio there with the successors to the A and B class?
Schmidt: I am very optimistic that we will also offer two to three of our four variants of the upcoming MFA architecture in the USA. Because we want to benefit from the trend towards more compact vehicles in the USA too. And the B-Class with its prerequisites for alternative drives in the double floor is in place.
What significance does the growth market of China play for you?
Schmidt: China is an important market for us. After sales of 70,000 vehicles
last year, we want to sell more than 100,000 Mercedes there in 2010. At the Beijing Motor Show at the end of April we will once again demonstrate our 'Luxury Leadership' - with the new long version of the E-Class and the revised Maybach, among other things. It is of course no coincidence that this is there, because China is the most important market for Maybach alongside the USA and the Middle East. By the way, China is also the most successful market for the R-Class, and with the redefinition of the car in the direction of SUV, which we are undertaking with the comprehensive model upgrade, we will certainly gain further tailwind. This will also contribute to the fact that we will significantly expand our sales network of around 130 dealers this year.
Don't you think that a cooperation with a French high-volume manufacturer Renault will have negative spill effects for you?
Schmidt: No, that might have been the case ten years ago. But certainly not today - especially not in this segment. The fact that the models are powered by Chrysler and Peugeot engines didn't hurt BMW's Mini either. In addition - regardless of which cooperation partner we choose - we will always keep our brand values, such as the tridion cell and the rear engine in the Smart, which are the prerequisites for the extremely compact dimensions of the Smart.
And how many Smart will you sell in 2015 - of the planned 1.5 million Mercedes Benz Cars?
Schmidt: You can be sure that we will sell well over 100,000 Smart cars in 2015.
In the US, smart sales fell dramatically by 40 percent in 2009.
Schmidt: This is largely due to the significantly lower fuel prices. All small car sales have suffered. But we are also noticing that after the first smart hype in the States we have to do more advertising and we will implement that in the short term.
What are the most important topics for you in advertising? highlight
Schmidt: W e want to focus even more on the specific customer benefits in the future with every new vehicle especially when it comes to technical innovations, such as the Aircap on the new E-Class convertible. We will also highlight what we are doing when it comes to reducing consumption. Key words: comprehensive and standard start-stop introduction, the latest diesel, seven-speed automatic. Our claim is clear: We want to offer the most fuel-efficient vehicles in every segment.