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Mercedes rolls out the glitz for flagship showroom

The sputtering U.S. economic recovery may pose the biggest risk to the auto industry's growth prospects this year, but it isn't deterring Mercedes-Benz from celebrating the opening of a flagship showroom in the Big Apple.

Mercedes-Benz USA -- pouring on the glitz for stars, dealers and customers -- threw a gala last night to show off its gleaming new $220 million dealership on 11th Avenue in New York City. Mercedes-Benz Manhattan is the brand's only company-owned store in the United States.

The luxury automaker hosted more than 1,000 guests, including some of its biggest U.S. dealers, such as Roger Penske, CEO of the Penske Automotive Group.

The new store showcases the Autohaus modern design that Mercedes-Benz rolled out for all dealers several years ago.

About 300 of Mercedes-Benz's 355 U.S. dealerships have spent a combined $1.4 billion since 2008 to upgrade or to build new Autohaus design stores "to deliver the dream you deserve when you buy a Mercedes-Benz," said Ernst Lieb, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.

Mercedes' U.S. sales are up 9 percent this year in a market that has risen 14 percent. But industry sales weakened in May on supply shortages and consumer jitters about the economy.

Earlier Tuesday, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche told The Wall Street Journal that mixed economic readings in the United States could slow the industry's strong rebound.

"The biggest risk is that the U.S. economy does not start [recovering] on a more consistent basis," he said.

Mercedes-Benz says its new flagship showroom and dealership on the east side of Manhattan will serve as a laboratory for customer and service innovations. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Later, Zetsche threw caution to the wind and welcomed guests and celebrities such as actor Nick Cannon, who is married to pop singer Mariah Carey, and hip-hop star Reverend Run.

Renowned executive chef Gabriel Kreuther of The Modern restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art created and prepared the menu.

Guests later moved across the street to a park for a private concert by the rock group Matchbox Twenty.

Under a special glass tent built for the concert, guests munched on miniature lobster sandwiches and hamburgers, and sipped champagne.

Mercedes-Benz Manhattan moved into the new five-story, 330,000-square-foot facility between 53rd and 54th streets from its old site at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel.

The new dealership is a laboratory for Mercedes-Benz USA to test customer and service innovations.

And sell a few luxury cars in a cradle of wealth and consumption.

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