St. Jean Cap Ferrati
Mercedes-Benz is do-ing well. Despite DaimlerChrysler's problems, executives at the German passenger car division are feeling rather smug.
You can tell by the amount of money spent to introduce the latest C-class derivatives, the Sports Coupe and the Estate.
The company unveiled the cars in St. Jean Cap Ferrat in France, which Mercedes claims as a sort of spiritual home (see Postcard, Page 8).
Mercedes sold a record 1,052,000 vehicles worldwide last year. This was a 5 percent increase over 1999. World sales have doubled since 1993.
Can Mercedes-Benz increase sales without harming its exclusive image? Yes, says a relaxed Jurgen Hubbert, head of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars division. But the company must improve in North America and Japan. Last year Mercedes had a 12 percent share in Germany and a 5 percent share in Europe, but only a 1 percent share of the U.S. and Japanese markets.
It is a testament to the diesel engine's growing popularity in Europe that the Sports Coupe is launched with a diesel engine - the 2.2-liter CDI. 'It proves that the words 'dynamism' and 'diesel' are not mutually exclusive,' says Hubbert.
Mercedes-Benz cannot keep pace with the demand for diesels in Europe, he adds. Diesel orders are 60 percent of total orders, he adds. 'If there's an interest in reducing fuel consumption, we have to bring diesels back to the United States.'