M-B goal: Lift U.S. sales more than 20%
DETROIT -- Mercedes-Benz aims to boost its U.S. sales more than 20 percent from last year with the launch of four new compacts starting next year.
"In the midterm, we expect U.S. sales of 300,000 units for the Mercedes brand -- especially thanks to our new compact-car family," Mercedes global sales boss Joachim Schmidt said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.
Schmidt declined to give a year when Mercedes expects to reach its 300,000-unit target. But he said it will take two to three years to complete the U.S. rollout of Mercedes' compact family, which will start in 2013 and include new generations of the A class and B class as well as a compact SUV and coupe.
Schmidt said a B-class variant available only in the United States will be an electric vehicle with a range-extending fuel-powered engine. Currently, the C class is the smallest model Mercedes sells in the United States.
Schmidt's U.S. sales goal matches the target of rival BMW. Ludwig Willisch, BMW's U.S. sales boss, told <i>Automotive News</i> last month that his midterm goal is to increase BMW brand sales to 300,000 units.
Last year, BMW outsold Mercedes 247,907 to 245,192 to claim the title of top-selling premium brand in the United States for the first time. BMW's win ended Lexus' 11-year reign atop the U.S. luxury rankings. With production halted for part of last year because of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Lexus finished No. 3 as U.S. sales fell 13 percent to 198,552. Mercedes won the U.S. title once, in 1999, before ceding the crown to Lexus.
BMW's sales exclude the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands while Mercedes' results exclude the Sprinter commercial vehicle.
The European rollout of Mercedes' compact family started at the end of 2011 with the arrival of the new B class. The new A class debuts in Europe this year.
The European compact lineup will grow next year to include the coupe variant of the A class, which will be called CLC and compete against the BMW 1-series coupe. An SUV, likely to be called the GLC, should arrive at dealers in 2014 to rival the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
The new-generation A- and B-class models will be based on a new platform called MFA, which is short for Mercedes Front-wheel-drive Architecture.