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Benz babies set to boost sales

New guard: Mercedes-Benz is expecting a big boost in overall sales with the release of the A-Class and CLA (pictured) in 2013.

Mercedes-Benz’s small-car onslaught could spell end of C-Class’s sales reign

8 Feb 2013

MERCEDES-BENZ’S new A-Class hatch and its related CLA sedan offshoot could topple the C-Class as the German car-maker’s top-selling range in Australia by the end of the year.

While the C-Class has been Mercedes’ best-seller for more than a decade, a new model is due in 2014 when the A-Class will still be a relatively new vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz Australia corporate communications manager Jerry Stamoulis said the new A-Class that goes on sale on March 1 and the launch of the CLA sedan in the second half of the year would boost sales.

“It is premature to predict what this car will do,” he said. “Considering by the end of this year we will have an A-Class and CLA, there is a little bit of unknown as to what will happen. Then next year the C-Class goes into run out mode, the A-Class is still a new car and there won’t be any supply issues, and you throw in AMG as well.” “As C-Class comes to the end of its life … we might see A-Class and CLA combined overtake C-Class but that’s hard to say when that will actually happen,” he said.

The local arm of the German car-maker is happy with supply levels for the A-Class after experiencing some stock issues with other models last year.

“We have worked with the factory to get some volume off other markets, so there will be a healthy supply over the next six months, but depending on demand, that is another story,” Mr Stamoulis said.

Pricing for the A-Class starts at $35,600 for the base A180 and tops out at $49, 900 for the top-spec A250 Sport variant.

Mercedes’ aggressive pricing strategy with the A-Class reflects the company’s desire to not only attract new buyers to the brand, but to build on its existing customer base.

The German car-maker has said a healthy 60 per cent of A-Class buyers would be new to the brand with the remaining 40 per cent are either downsizing from a C-Class or choosing an A-Class to sit alongside their other Mercedes-Benz in the driveway as a second car.

Mr Stamoulis said that although the A-Class was being marketed directly to younger buyers in other markets, Mercedes-Benz Australia would have a slightly different approach.

“For Australia we feel they are young at heart,” he said. “You could be 20, you could be 80 or older. As long as you are the type who likes the look of the car and maybe the technology. It is really for someone who might be sick of driving something common.”

Mercedes-Benz Australia decided to skip the entry-level model that is available in Europe and the UK and start the range off with a higher specification, with automatic transmission only, missing out on a potential sub-$30,000 variant.

Mr Stamoulis said the Australian lineup had better standard equipment and fewer options than overseas markets.

“If you look at the A-Class range in the UK for example, they offer a manual gearbox, hubcaps and so on,” he said. “We said no, we think the Australian consumer wants to walk into the dealership and know what they are getting.”

Despite 50 per cent of pre-orders for the A-Class being for the range-topping A250 Sport, Mr Stamoulis said that in the long term, the mid-spec A200 would be the volume seller.

Mercedes-Benz capped off a big year in 2012, with a number of models topping their segment.

Despite supply issues and an April 2012 on-sale date, the B-Class topped the premium small car segment with 2035 sales, beating the BMW 1 Series by 115 units.

The C-Class pipped the BMW 3 Series 6676 sales to 5493, the E-Class Cabrio was the top-selling sports car over $80,000 for the year and the GL was the winner in the large SUV over $100,000 segment.

BMW beat Mercedes in overall sales of passenger vehicles and SUVs for the year, but Mr Stamoulis said that selling more units than its main competitor was not a priority.

“Our priority is that the segments we are in, we want to win. If we were to sell more vehicles than BMW, that’s great but it’s not our priority. Our KPI is to bring in the best possible vehicle and win the segment.”

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