Dubai: Small and the curvaceous are doing just fine at Mercedes-Benz’s operations in the Middle East. Even with the prevailing weak consumer sentiments, Merc is winning over a new-generation of owners, and especially among the young – needless to say – upwardly mobile.
Models such as the A-Class, the GLA and GLC are central to this strategy of lowering the median age of a typical Merc owner in these markets. It is a playbook the parent company Daimler has been fine-tuning for the better part of two years and more, and instrumental in the brand winning back the title of the highest selling premium carmaker in the world.
“Mercedes-Benz had its most successful year globally in 2016 - we increased our unit sales by 11.3 per cent and delivered 2.083 million vehicles,” said Mark De Haes (pictured right), President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars M.E.. “This means that not only did Mercedes-Benz grow worldwide faster than its German competitors, but also delivered the most cars in the premium segment.
“In the region, we have definitely experienced fluctuations in different markets. This is to be expected given the economic evolution experienced.”
When car sales started declining in the UAE and the Gulf last year, it was felt that the luxury end of the market would remain relatively immune. Or at least will see to it that the drop was not steep. In 2016, this did turn out to be the case, but not so this year. The overall market in the UAE for new car sales is down by about 20 per cent, based on the first eight-month tally.
So, for Merc to carve up a new category of buyers through this phase of the market is quite creditable. This is where small and the curves were a help.
“We launched our first compact SUV, the Mercedes-Benz GLA, in 2014 and demand has been rising,” said De Haes. “It is an important model for us now. The popularity of this segment is also clear by the recent launches by other car brands who haven't previously had an SUV model.
"Compact cars for have grown in importance, driven in part by their practicality and performance. Above all, they speak to a younger audiences' desire for a premium product that does not compromise on their lifestyle needs."
“Like any new product, it is vital that we not only identify the right audience, but also ensure that the audience is aware of this product. This explains the new brand proposition we have adopted with our communications approach - our "Grow up" campaign is one aspect of this approach.
“The campaign for our compact car range is the most extensive content creation in the history of the brand, both globally and here in the region.”
Merc's on an electric offensive
Mercedes-Benz has no doubts about the future for electric cars.
It is "driven by the belief that demands for emission-free automobiles will only grow over the coming years as the stigma on electric vehicles gives way to acceptance and desirability," said Mark De Haes at Mercedes-Benz Cars M.E. "Last year, we introduced a new brand for electric mobility - EQ, which stands for electric intelligence. Globally, we plan on having 10 all-electric vehicles in our portfolio by 2022. We will also offer at least one electrified drivetrain in each model series."
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