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Mercedes-Benz bets big on India

February 15, 2010 18:18 IST

Leading global luxury vehicle maker Mercedes-Benz, which on Monday launched two variants of the 2010 M-Class here said it was 'bullish' on India in 2010 and keen on leveraging India for its growth strategy in terms of research and development and global sourcing.

"We expect a good year in 2010 and we are hoping to build on the momentum of 2009 when we sold 140 M class, which was double the sales compared to 2008", Wilfried G Aulbur, MD and CEO, Mercedes-Benz India, said during the launch of its Sports edition and luxury edition of its M-class.

The company is investing Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) in revamping the network in terms of creating new showrooms, upgradation of showrooms and facilities and entering new cities, he said.

It is planning a new Benz centre in Delhi with 26 car display, a 12-car display in Hyderabad and a 16-car display in Chennai, he said apart from investing in manpower. "We are growing aggressively and have a clear strategy in place for leveraging India aggressively for R and D and global sourcing", he said adding "China and India are high on our agenda for global sourcing".

The company also plans to launch 12 products in 12 weeks of the current year, he said. The firm was looking at introducing the SLSAMG, a sports car, to India by this year end and already had six confirmed bookings from places like Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi.

It also plans to introduce the E-Coupe. However, the company is not looking at introducing hybrids since most are left hand drive cars.

Talking about the time frame for its Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) investment utilisation, Aulbur said it hoped to utilise the investment by the third quarter of this year.

To a question on its Jharkand facility, he said its current capacity was 5000 passenger cars per shift and 1200 commercial cars per shift.

The facility had a capacity of 10,000 to 12,000. It also had around 19 hectares unutilised space, which could be used for expansion.

Mercedes Benz was also exploring Tier II and III cities where it was seekng traction. "Places like Surat and Thiruvananthapuram are seeing traction," he said.

He said the `SUV' segment in India "was shaping up well" and was one of the driving forces in luxury car sales. Bangalore also was well poised for growth in this segment. "We expect significant double digit growth in the luxury SUV", he said adding that the 2009 sales here has helped the company to have a 16 percent share in the SUV segment.
On introduction of hybrids to India, he said hybrids were left seated driving and hence could not be introduced. The new sports edition is priced at Rs 55 lakh and luxury edition priced at Rs 60.9 lakh.

The highlight of the sports variant is interior lighting package, sports instrument cluster, sports pedal system made of brushed stainless steel with rubber studs, a chrome waistline trims trip, rectangular tailpipes and aluminium-look roof rails.

The luxury edition highlights are a wood/leather multifunction steering wheel, thermotronic three zone automatic climate control, anti-theft protection package and leather seats.

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