Mercedes-Benz India cautious, but sees demand rising in second half of 2019

Mercedes-Benz India MD & CEO Martin Schwenk with V-P (sales marketing) Michael Jopp right) at the launch of Mercedes-Benz V-Class MPV, in Mumbai on Thursday. Photo: Kamlesh Pednekar
Mercedes-Benz India remains cautious for the current year and expects the year to be flat in terms of financial performance as the segment is under pressure owing to the current macroeconomic headwinds, Martin Schwenk, managing director and chief executive, said. 

But that is not stopping the luxury car market leader from bringing in new models. The local arm of the German firm, which completes 25 years in one of the world’s smallest luxury car markets, plans to introduce 10 new models, including variants of existing ones, this calendar year. 

“Our numbers were quite satisfying for calendar year 2018 and we had a reasonable growth. I will be cautious about the current year. It’s not just about volumes but also price points and discounts. The overall industry is under pressure. We expect this year to be the same as last,” said Schwenk, pointing out that he expected sales to be more buoyant in the second half of the year, after the elections. 

Mercedes is not listed in India and files its financials with the registrar of companies with a lag.  

On Thursday, Mercedes launched the V Class, a seven-seater luxury multi-purpose vehicle, a first for the Indian market, with prices starting from Rs 68.40 lakh. The move to import the model from its facility in Spain was prompted by an amendment in a notification on imported vehicles in September 2018. It now allows foreign manufacturers to directly, or through their authorised Indian representatives, ship in a maximum of 2,500 completely-built units or semi knocked-down kits, if the components come with compliance certificates issued by an authorised agency in the country of origin. Mercedes plans to launch nine more models this year in its bid to retain its hold in the market.

Retaining its leadership in the segment for the fourth year in a row, Mercedes sold 15,538 cars in 2018, against 15,330 units in the same period a year ago. “We had a lowest point in Q3 (calendar year),” said Schwenk, pointing out that a resurgence in last three months helped it close the year on a satisfying note. “My assumption is that things would come back in a big way after the elections,” he said.

Cumulative sales of luxury models from Mercedes Benz India, BMW India, Audi India, Jaguar Land Rover India, and Volvo Cars India, advanced 4.9 per cent to 40,863 units in 2018. Last year, 38,950 luxury cars were sold in the country. If one leaves aside 2016, when sales declined 4.68 per cent, the pace of growth in 2018 is the slowest in a decade, according to IHS Markit, a sales forecast and market research firm. 

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