Mercedes plans 1st TV ads for R class
The R class has been revamped for the 2011 model year, and the spots will run from August through October. Cannon declined to give spending figures.
The face-lift could be a final effort to boost sales of the vehicle. Since the crossover's debut in the fall of 2005, Cannon says, Mercedes has done little to promote it aside from brochures and limited online exposure. The vehicle has never hit its original sales expectations of more than 20,000 vehicles annually.
U.S. sales of the R class peaked at 18,168 units in 2006; by 2009, they had slumped to 2,825 units. Through May of this year, only 1,223 had been sold.
As for the revamped model, Cannon says: "We are planning conservatively. We will see a double-digit percentage bump over today's relatively low levels."
Steve Cannon: "The crossover segment is hot. ... Now we have a reason to talk to people rather than allow [the R class] to exist on life support."
The TV spots will run on cable news, sport events and prime-time shows such as "Grey's Anatomy," "CSI" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Mercedes will take an unusual approach to the ads, buying two 15-second spots. One will run at the beginning of a commercial break, and the other at the end. The commercials may use Mercedes' new global tag line, "The Best or Nothing."
He says the vehicle was pitched to the wrong audience: empty nesters instead of young families. Potential buyers were confused about whether the R class was a minivan or a roomy car, Cannon says.
U.S. executives lobbied for the restyling that gives the R class a more SUV-like front end like Mercedes' other light trucks. Mercedes spent $100 million on exterior changes and interior upgrades. The new version will be available only with six-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines.
An eight-cylinder engine and a high-performance AMG version were dropped for the 2008 model year because of slow sales.
The 2011 R class is expected to start close to the price of the current model: $50,175 with shipping.
"We know the crossover segment is hot," Cannon says. "It is a segment where people are shopping and looking for alternatives to minivans. Now we have a reason to talk to people rather than allow [the R class] to exist on life support."
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