E-class crucial to Mercedes' 2013 corporate ambition
21 March 2013
Author: Rachel Burgess
The most important car for Mercedes' fleet sales this year will be the facelifted E-class, according to UK chief executive Marcus Breitschwerdt.
On sale in April and up against rivals such as the BMW 5-series, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF, Breitschwerdt said that previously there had been a major gap between the car and its sector competitors.
But he added: "The new E-class will definitely turn around that game. It doesn't leave any needs unaddressed." He said the brand would create "striking offers" for the facelift, including a fleet-focused trim level, echoing the C-class SE Executive model.
The new 'baby CLS', the CLA, which launches in summer, will also make an impact on business sales.Volume will be below the A-class, while pricing is set to fall between A- and C-class levels.
A spokesman said the car is attracting buyers of both two- and four-door models and falls under the four-door saloon bracket on fleet policy lists.
Meanwhile, the all-new A-class, which Merc hopes will ensure massive conquest from its rivals, is in short supply, with Breitschwerdt explaining that UK allocation has now been doubled.
However, due to this, it will not reach the 20,000 fleet sales in 2013 that fleet boss Nick Andrews predicted to BusinessCar last year.
Breitschwerdt added that he hopes to match German rivals BMW and Audi's fleet sales within five years: "The premium segment has grown over the last 10 years and we have not, but we were the fastest-growing premium brand in the UK in 2012.
"We have not been as professional as we should have been on the fleet side. Now, it is about product, bespoke customer offers, consistency, the right people and the right structure."
The brand has revamped its fleet team while introducing improved internal processes such as a tax calculator.
It is also running twice-yearly forums with its key customers, typically blue chip firms, where Mercedes presents its strategy and asks for feedback.
Andrews has also defended Merc's activities amid accusations from rivals that unnamed premium brands are self-registering cars - "We don't do self-registration. There's a customer at the end of each one of these cars," he said.
"Financially and in volume terms we were on target last year and Daimler AG is very happy with the UK. We're not prepared to overstretch the existing product range to beat BMW or Audi."