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Mercedes sales chief pledges that the brand will regain top spot in satisfaction surveys

Munich. Mercedes-Benz has lost its No. 1 ranking in two German studies surveying customer and dealer satisfaction.

The German luxury brand dropped from top position in the Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) carried out by the automotive industry research center in Bamberg and in the Brands Monitor survey by EurotaxSchwacke.

Joachim Schmidt, Mercedes Car Group sales director, said the results of the survey were unfair.

Schmidt said the expectations of Mercedes-Benz customers and dealers are significantly higher than those of most other brands.

He said Mercedes-Benz is well-positioned in other surveys by German motoring organizations such as the ADAC and TUEV.

"To draw the conclusion from the studies that the quality of Mercedes-Benz vehicles is worse than that of the competition and that our dealers' level of satisfaction is lower than that of dealers of other brands, has nothing to do with reality," Schmidt said.

He criticized the studies' lack in objectivity. He said that dealers were only questioned about their level of satisfaction with their own brand. The same applies to similar customer polls. "There is no cross comparison," Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the reorganization of the Mercedes-Benz European dealer network is almost finished.

In Germany, the number of authorized Mercedes dealers has been reduced to 100 with 570 showrooms compared with 250 dealers with 600 showrooms in 1998.

The automaker has also opened Mercedes-Benz centers in Berlin and Munich. Further centers are planned in Cologne and Stuttgart and in major European cities such as Paris, London and Milan.

Schmidt says he aims to boost Mercedes-Benz' sales volume to 1.5 million units a year from the current 1.1 million after three years of stagnation.

"We will benefit fully," Schmidt said, "from a second product offensive from 2005."

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