Mercedes-Benz dealers should be in position to gain market share in 2020 thanks to an influx of recently redesigned and freshened SUVs and crossovers, but dealers will have to prepare to sell coming battery-electric offerings such as the EQC, Mercedes dealers heard at their make meeting at the NADA Show.
"I think it's fair to give the manufacturer credit when things are going well," said Jeff Swickard, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz Dealer Board and dealer principal of three Mercedes-Benz stores — in Seattle, Atlanta and Wilsonville, Ore., outside Portland.
"They really heard the message about SUV- versus-passenger car and got ahead of that, and now we have a fantastic SUV lineup," he said.
Speaking with Automotive News before the make meeting, Adam Chamberlain, vice president of sales for Mercedes-Benz USA, said dealers "saw a nice uptick" in dealer profitability in 2019 and should be helped by new SUVs and crossovers in 2020.
"2020 is our year of the SUVs — we have an all-new GLA, all-new GLB, face-lifted and newly contented GLC, all-new GLE, all-new GLS, Maybach GLS and the ... G class," Chamberlain said.
"We believe this will drive interest and enthusiasm for the dealers."
He added, "On top of that, they are growing their fixed absorption and have increased retention of vehicles in their 10-year park, so we should be optimistic across the business in 2020."
Swickard said demand for the EQC is likely to be strongest along the East and West coasts and "close in" to the middle of the country. He said Mercedes dealers need "to compete head-to-head with Tesla," and the EQC, when it goes on sale in the U.S. in 2021, should fit the bill.
"We need time as dealers to also get ready [to sell battery-electric vehicles], and we're doing a lot of preparation to get ready, putting in charging stations, etc.," Swickard said.
Mercedes hasn't made volume demands on U.S. dealers to sell the EQC, and the brand has said it will be a "pull" vehicle, meaning dealers who want to sell them are free to do so, regardless of their location, so long as they're prepared. "Their requests are really reasonable," he said.
Chamberlain said Mercedes is working with its dealers to explore what he called "new and emerging retail formats," and said the automaker is "placing a strong focus" in 2020 on experience and economics in its dealer network, "exploring ways to improve retail cost efficiency for profitability."