Mercedez-Benz marks 'year of the SUV', eyes future in home away from home
At the ongoing Auto Guangzhou 2019, automobile manufacturer Daimler is showcasing a broad product portfolio, underlining the company's commitment to the Chinese market and giving a glimpse into sustainable modern luxury.
To further deepen this commitment, Ola Kallenius, chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, paid his first visit to an international auto show outside Germany since taking office earlier this year.
"I like to think of China as a home away from home," he told China Daily.
He is the only global chairman from a premium brand present at the Guangzhou exhibition, once again demonstrating the importance that Daimler has attached to its world's largest market since 2015 and the ambition that has motivated the company to roll out their blueprint in China.
The brand has continuously expanded its product portfolio with the latest lineups, including the world premiere of the new Mercedes-Maybach GLS and two China debuts, including the VISION EQS at the auto show. At least nine other models are also on display, such as the first locally-produced AMG model - the A 35 L 4MATIC, making their launch in the market.
"With these strong products and innovative technologies, we aim to provide our highly valued customers here in China with the best - in every aspect," said Hubertus Troska, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for China.
Steady growth amid slowdown
This year has proven fruitful for the Stuttgart-based company with a steady growth momentum in sales for the first 10 months against the backdrop of a slowdown in the auto sector.
Mercedes-Benz and smart delivered 591,002 new cars from January to October, registering a 5 percent year-on-year growth thanks to a powerful product offensive, making Mercedes-Benz the leading brand in the premium car market in China this year, according to Jan Madeja, president and CEO of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co Ltd.
This impressive record could not have been achieved without a convincing and competitive product portfolio, as well as redoubled effort in prioritizing customer requirements, according to the company.
"Without our customers, this tremendous success would not be possible," he said during his first trip to the southern coastal city. "We will continue to work even harder to put our customers' interests at the very center of everything that we do in order to meet and even exceed their expectations."
Figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers earlier this month showed that for the first 10 months, passenger vehicle sales in China declined by 11 percent year-on-year and had registered a decline for 16 consecutive months by October, mainly due to weaker-than-expected demand.
Strong product offensives
This year marks Mercedes-Benz's "Year of the SUV" in China, with nearly 10 all-new or face-lifted models having been launched. One highlight is the Mercedes-Maybach GLS that made its world premiere on Thursday in Guangzhou.
Five years ago, the company premiered its Mercedes-Maybach luxury car brand together with its first model, the Maybach S-Class, at the very same venue.
Since then, the brand has seen a tremendous success story in China. Two out of three of these top-end sedans have found many takers in China.
"China is the biggest market for the Mercedes-Maybach brand worldwide. We are fortunate and thankful to gain the trust of our valued Chinese customers," Troska said.
"With the new Mercedes-Maybach GLS, we are introducing a highly attractive and luxurious new product to the top-end of the SUV market here in China. We are convinced that it will continue two success stories - that of the Mercedes-Maybach brand, and that of the Mercedes SUVs," he said.
According to the automaker, Mercedes-Benz SUV models have proven popular with over 6.5 million sold worldwide, China being their biggest market.
The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLB, a 7-seater SUV, made its China debut, while the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLS, the S-Class of premium SUVs, made its market launch.
While adhering to its core business of high quality internal combustion engine models, Daimler is also embracing the electrified future.
Electric mobility forms a key pillar of its strategy both globally and in China, the largest market for new energy vehicles worldwide.
Daimler's electric initiative is showcased in Mercedes-Benz's product and technology brand EQ, which stands for "Electric Intelligence". The first product from EQ, the EQC SUV, celebrated its market launch in early November in Beijing and is the first locally produced premium battery electric vehicle in the Chinese market.
The immediate localization of this electric model shows Daimler's strong dedication to leverage the potential of the Chinese new energy vehicle market.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC SUV is manufactured by Beijing Benz Automotive, the joint venture between Daimler and its local partner BAIC Group. Both companies are investing 5 billion yuan ($568.19 million) in the local production of Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles and batteries.
Furthermore, they are investing around 11.9 billion yuan into a second production location for future Mercedes-Benz products, including EQ electric vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz EQB - an all-electric compact SUV - will be another "Made in China, for China" model, available from 2021.
For seven years, Daimler has been developing the NEV brand DENZA together with local partner BYD. The brand is the very first Sino-foreign joint venture dedicated to NEVs and a pioneer in China's NEV market.
Meanwhile, Daimler and Geely are forming a new joint venture to work on the new generation of the premium electric vehicle smart, which will be assembled at a new plant in China with global sales scheduled for 2022.
Ambition 2039 strategy
Kallenius gave the audience a glimpse into the future of "sustainable modern luxury" at Mercedes-Benz, unveiling the electric concept car, the VISION EQS, in China for the first time.
"The VISION EQS is how we picture a future all-electric luxury sedan from Mercedes-Benz," Kallenius said. "We believe, the most effective lever for bringing together more demand for mobility of the people with less emissions for the world over the long term is true progress in technology," Kallenius added.
Looking into the future, Mercedes-Benz, under the strategy Ambition 2039 aims to have a carbon-neutral new passenger car fleet within two decades. By 2030, the company plans to achieve more than 50 percent of passenger car sales with plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles.
Laying a strong foundation to realize this ambition, Daimler is investing more than 10 billion euros ($11.06 billion) over the next few years in electric vehicles.
There are more electric models planned for the EQ family worldwide within the next few years and the majority will be launched in China. With innovative products and customer-centric services, Daimler aims to meet or even exceed the expectations of Chinese customers.