Over the past year, Mercedes Benz India Limited (MBIL) has been following an aggressive product launch strategy, and this year promises to be no different. The company is lining an even more aggressive product strategy with models being launched across multiple segments. The newest Mercedes vehicle to join the Indian portfolio is the GL Class, which for now will be sold as a completely built unit (CBU) at a price of Rs 7.5 lakh, ex-showroom, New Delhi. At the launch we were able to have a quick chat with Eberhard Kern, Managing Director & CEO, MBIL to get a glimpse of things to come in 2013.
Kern told us that 2013 is the year of offensive for MBIL and is based on four pillars – new products, expansion of dealer network, brand experience through a set of six different drive experiences and total cost of ownership (TCO). He added that Mercedes-Benz presently has the best TCO in the luxury car segment in India. Of these four pillars, Kern spoke about the new products in detail. The next launch and probably the most important of this year will be the all new A-Class, the second car from MBIL based on the Modular Front Architecture (MFA) platform. The premium hatchback would’ve been launched by the time you read this story and will be available in petrol and diesel options from the start.
MBIL is positive about the market response of the A-Class, as it has already created a buzz among prospective consumers. Moreover, markets across the world are witnessing an inclination towards compact luxury cars. The A-Class being the first vehicle in its segment is also likely to benefit from the lack of competition for now. The A-Class will be followed by a diesel variant of the B-Class, the first MFA based car in India. These cars are expected to be further followed by the E-Class facelift and the CLA.
In addition to being a key growth market, India also serves as a strategic product development centre through the Mercedes-Benz Research & Development India (MBRDI) centre in Bangalore, also the largest outside Germany. Kern considers India to be a key hub for global development of products for the group company. The R&D centre is now complimented by supporting facilities from Pune and the most recent one in Chennai. These centres employ about 1,200 people in total and have some role to play in almost all Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Talking of the same, Kern said there’s a little bit of India in every Mercedes-Benz!
From an Indian perspective, MBRDI plays a key role in creating market-specific solutions in lesser time. These solutions generally include suspension adaptation and horn among many others. Moreover, the centre plays key role in design and IT, which spans multiple projects presently.
THE YEAR AHEAD
Kern believes 2013 will witness MBIL growing at a significant pace, and presently available figures support his belief. Sales have already grown by 5.3 % in the first quarter of 2013 against market conditions that have been negative. With some key products being launched now, the growth is expected to continue further. Although, Kern refused to share any numbers, he expects a double digit growth by the end of this year.
Talking of production, Kern added that the CKD operations at the Chakan plant will be further expanded to increase competitiveness. The A-Class and the GL 350 CDI will be the next models to be assembled, making India the second country to assemble the GL outside the US.
Text: Arpit Mahendra