Mercedes-Benz boss Juergen Hubbert said Mercedes-Benz USA Inc. will start selling the latest Gelaendewagen sport-utility in the United States, after Mercedes buys out an independent distributor.
"There seems to be demand," he said. Mercedes sold about 4,500 Gelaendewagens worldwide in 2000. In answer to a question, he said 1,000 units a year in the U.S. market "would be a great number for us."
Hubbert is the DaimlerChrysler board member in charge of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and Smart. He said that Mercedes is negotiating to buy out G-Wagen U.S.A. in Santa Fe, N.M.
Hubbert acknowledged that the New Mexico firm has the U.S. rights to import and distribute the G-Wagen: "We are buying the rights."
The distributor has been selling about 50 Gelaendewagens a year in the U.S. market since 1983. Sticker prices for the present model are $130,000 to $135,000. G-Wagen U.S.A. is a subsidiary of Europa International Inc., also of Santa Fe.
Before now, Mercedes has discouraged customers from associating G-Wagen U.S.A. and its products with Mercedes-Benz USA. Mercedes-Benz warranties do not cover units sold by G-Wagen U.S.A.
Gloria Romero, vice president of G-Wagen U.S.A., was surprised by Hubbert's announcement. "This is about the fifth time Mercedes has done a study whether to import it on their own," she said. "As far as them buying us out, we don't have anything to announce; we have not finalized anything."