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BMW beats Mercedes in luxury stakes
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Mercedes sales decline over 10%, but the company expects double-digit growth this year.

BMW India has overtaken Mercedes Benz India as the Number One luxury car major by sales in the domestic market.

For the 12-month period ended December, BMW sold 3,619 units of luxury cars, while the Pune-based Mercedes Benz sold 3,247 units. This is the first time that BMW, which began operations here in 2005, has overtaken its German automobile counterpart, Mercedes Benz, which has been selling cars in the country since the 1950s.

The luxury car market begins from Rs 26 lakh (Mercedes Benz C-Class) and extends up to Rs 5 crore (Mercedes’ Maybach). The annual volume sold in the domestic market is around 7,000 units. In the past two years, Mercedes Benz has controlled over 50 per cent of the luxury car market, with BMW close behind, averaging a market share between 35 and 45 per cent. The rest was contributed by the third German car major, Audi, which sells around 1,000 cars a year.

2009 was a turning point for Mercedes Benz. Despite the overall deceleration in passenger vehicle sales in the domestic market, it actually posted a robust growth of 24 per cent, while Mercedes Benz posted a decline of 10.4 per cent.

Mercedes attributes the drop in sales to the insufficient availability of the all-new E-Class car’s CKD (completely knocked down) kits. The E-Class was launched in the last quarter of 2009. The company imports these kits and assembles them at its Pune unit.

Mercedes plans to recoup. “We will grow at a very solid, double-digit growth this year,” says Wilfried Aulbur, managing director and CEO of Mercedes Benz India. The company fields the C-Class in the executive segment, the E-Class in the premium segment and the S-Class in the luxury segment. It also has its presence in the SUV segment and imported premium coupes.

Among the 3,247 cars sold last year, Mercedes sold around 1,600 C-Class units. “This is our entry model for the domestic market. In the coming years, we would be launching newer variants of the C-Class, appealing to different profiles of the luxury segment,” says Debashis Mitra, director (sales & marketing). The company invested Rs 150 crore at its production plant in Pune last year.

The company today unveiled the new S-500 L car, priced at Rs 95 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). The earlier S-Class cars were imported as completely built units and priced at Rs 1.10 crore. The new S-500 L will be assembled (from CKD kits) at the Pune factory. Mercedes Benz also unveiled its new SUV, the GL 350 CDI, priced at Rs 64.90 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

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