Mercedes boss Hubbert has sales increase in sight and big plans for China

Stuttgart. Mercedes boss Juergen Hubbert is optimistic about the second half of the year.

"Developments are going according to plan," he said. "Mercedes Car Group will achieve much higher unit sales in 2004 than in the previous year. The Smart brand plays a significant role in this."

He said that the gains will come from new products, such as the new Mercedes-Benz A class, which goes on sale September 10. According to Hubbert, "more than 25,000 orders have been received in western Europe" since the sales launch June 21.

He believes that in the medium term, about 300,000 units of the A class could be sold annually.

Hubbert said the long-term target of a total of 1.8 million annual sales for the Mercedes-Benz, Smart and Maybach brands worldwide remains unchanged.

He still believes that there is a lot of potential in China.

"The Mercedes brand is highly regarded there and there is a lot of interest."

He is hopeful that Mercedes will receive the final go-ahead for production in China within the next three weeks.

"We want to start-up production this year," he said.

Hubbert said that 25,000 units of the C and E class could be built a year if the plant works to full capacity.

The Mercedes boss expects strong China sales growth this year.

"This year we will be selling 60 to 70 percent more than last year," he said. "This is the equivalent of between 12,000 and 15,000 autos."

He believes that 50,000 to 60,000 units could be sold in China in the long term.