Mercedes-Benz USA has launched a month-long program to reduce a six-month glut of unsold C-class coupes.
The program pays US dealers $4,000 (E3,620) for each C320K or C320C that the dealer buys before March 31 to use as a demonstrator or service-department loaner. A $1,500 retail incentive on 2003 model C-class coupes sold new to consumers is unchanged.
The purpose of the new program is to increase the size of each dealer's alternate transportation fleet, that is demos and loaners, says Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Donna Boland. "We're inviting more customers to take test drives in the coupes."
The program nominally runs February 1 to March 31, but it wasn't announced until February 27. That still gave dealers a couple of days to report some or all of their C-class coupes as sold in February. The company had about 4,000 C-class coupes in dealer inventory in late February.
Stavros Paraskevdaides, sales operations manager for Mercedes, says coupe sales in the US have been running about 900 a month, which could double to 1,800 as a result of the program.
Dealers seemed eager to use the program, which includes 2002 and 2003 C-class coupes. They say coupe inventories have piled up because of a lack of marketing and advertising support. "It's dead merchandise," one dealer said.
Part of the problem is that hatchback models are not as popular in the United States as they are in Europe. Dealers are selling to a new customer and must persuade consumers to try the hatchbacks.
"We don't think the car is in trouble," Boland says. "It's a new segment where the dealer is not in his comfort zone yet."
"Worldwide, the coupe is a great success," said Joachim Schmidt, head of worldwide sales and marketing for Mercedes. "In the US market, however, it is perceived as a new model without a predecessor, and in a new segment that American customers aren't used to yet. So it's not accidental that we chose the Sports coupe for this courtesy car campaign."
Dorothée Ostle contributed