BRUSSELS - Mercedes-Benz's new A class is already taking a bite out of competitors' sales.
Mercedes is piling up 500 orders a day in Germany, even though the new small car won't reach dealerships until September. More than one-third of the orders are coming from Volkswagen Golf owners, said Juergen Hubbert, Daimler-Benz board member in charge of passenger cars.
Eighty percent of the orders are conquests, he said.
Speaking at the Automotive News Europe Congress, Hubbert said Daimler-Benz will not buy another carmaker or develop a world car for emerging markets - two scenarios considered in 1993.
He said the company will focus on mature markets where its vehicles now are sold, but also will enter markets like Brazil and India and consider new vehicle segments.
The leap into new segments followed a realization a few years ago that 'the good times are over,' Hubbert said. 'Forty years of success hurts the character,' he said.
New models like the A class and M-class sport-utility that goes on sale in the United States in September will raise Mercedes' volume from 645,000 units to more than 1 million by 2000, he said.
The successful U.S. debut of Lexus and Infiniti in 1991-92 was a wake-up call. Said Hubbert: 'I got the message that Mercedes-Benz was good, but not worth the price.'