Mercedes sales boss explains why slumping B class still works

Mercedes sales boss explains why slumping B class still works

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS EUROPE MONTHLY MAGAZINE

Britta Seeger: “The B class is part of a significant and promising segment so we will replace it.”

European sales of the Mercedes-Benz B class have been on the decline for years. In 2012, Mercedes sold more than 120,000 units of the premium compact minivan. Last year the B class’s volume dipped to little more than 62,000. Despite the slump, Mercedes sales boss Britta Seeger says the B class will be replaced. She explained why in an interview with Automotive News Europe Associate Publisher and Editor Luca Ciferri.

The new family of Mercedes compact models will expand to nine derivatives from six now. Do you still see room for a compact minivan such as the slow-selling B class?

The B class is part of a significant and promising segment so we will replace it. In our new compact family we will also bring seven-seat vehicles to market. We see a growing desire for seven-seat vehicles in China and we must satisfy this demand. Will it be a minivan or an SUV? You will have to wait and see. So far you have seen the first new model, the A class, which is really a lovely car and a very substantial product.

Will the EQ compact EV be part of the new A- and B-class family?

No. Battery-powered vehicles will be purpose-built models that all belong to the EQ family.

Sales of the B class have dwindled in the past few years.

Regulators all over the world are pushing for lower emissions, which will lead to various electrification solutions being added to most if not all vehicles. At the same time, your AMG high-performance division and your rival, BMW M, both achieved record sales last year. Is it fair to say that no matter what regulators demand, affluent people will still want to have powerful, gas guzzling cars?

They love high-performance cars. Therefore, we have to offer a variety of products to satisfy these very different needs. If you look back at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, we unveiled a high-performance car, the (Formula One-derived) Project One, and the urban, full-electric, fully autonomous Vision EQ concept. Where was the crowd at our stand? Around the Project One. Nevertheless, by 2025 between 15 percent and 25 percent of our products will be electrified. Time and consumers will tell us which percentage will be full-electric, plug-in hybrid, 48-volt hybrid, gasoline and diesel. Right now, we honestly do not know.

Does diesel have a future?

We are very satisfied with our diesel engines and our diesel sales. Last year we saw some ups and downs in some individual markets, such as Germany and the UK, but overall our share of diesel sales on a global basis was only marginally down – less than 1 percent. Nevertheless, as our volume went up, our diesel sales were higher than the previous year.

Britta Seeger

Position: Daimler Board Member for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales
Age: 48
Started current job: January 2017

Mercedes returned to being the world’s best-selling premium brand in 2016 and strengthened its lead in 2017. Are you there to stay?

We are confident we will provide the best answers to customers so they can make the right choice. It may look obvious now, but when we envisaged retaining the No. 1 premium brand position by 2020 it was 2011 and we were a distant third. That was not a very comfortable position for Mercedes, which was used to being No.1. It took a lot of hard work, but we delivered a robust answer, well ahead of our original plans.

Will Level 3 autonomous driving capability appear in a Mercedes car first or is this technology destined for your EQ EV range?

The next Mercedes S class will offer Level 3. We introduce new technologies when they are available and fit the upcoming products. For example, we introduced our new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) interface in the new A class because it perfectly fits the needs of that customer group and later it will flow to other models.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at [email protected].


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