Daimler Sets “Ambitious But Realistic” Global Sales Target, Takes Aim at BMW

Daimler AG, the parent company of the Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, and Smart brands, is seeking to capitalize on a strong start in 2010, and will strive to increase vehicle deliveries twice as fast as this year’s worldwide market growth rate.

Buoyed by strong first-quarter sales, CEO Dieter Zetsche maintains his “ambitious but realistic” global sales goal and foresees a significant 50-percent increase in total E-Class sales. The S-Class has been pulling its weight in sales as well and improved by more than two-thirds compared to last year. In all, 271,200 Mercedes, Maybach, and Smart cars were sold in the first quarter around the world, good for an 11-percent boost. The Mercedes brand alone jumped nearly 27 percent.

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">While Dr. Z wouldn’t disclose Daimler’s car-sales targets, the German powerhouse is aiming for earnings before interest and taxes of at least 2.3 billion euro, or $3.1 billion according to today’s exchange rates. Revenue is expected to exceed last year’s 78.9 billion euro ($107.5 billion) but stay well below the 2008 mark of 98.5 billion euro ($134.2 billion). A putrid 2009 left Daimler with an EBIT loss of $3.45 billion last year, its first for a full year since 2001. The loss prompted the cancellation of its stock dividend for the first time since 1999 but Daimler plans on resuming its dividend payments after returning to profit.

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">With Daimler’s sales fortunes on the rise, BMW once again sits in the crosshairs. Last year, the Munich-based group handily outpaced Daimler: 1,068,770 BMWs to 974,700 Mercedes-Benz vehicles. These figures compared just the core brands and don’t include Mini and Rolls-Royce for the BMW Group or Smart and Maybach for Daimler. The Stuttgart-based manufacturer is also wary of Audi, whose goal is to become the world’s largest premium automaker by 2015.

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Mercedes-Benz and Smart have sold a combined 51,963 vehicles in the United States, which includes the reclaimed Sprinter full-size van. Although the Smart brand is tanking this year (-71.7 percent through March), the two brands together are still 15-percent better than Q1 2009. Daimler will likely look to its freshly minted alliance with Renault-Nissan for Smart assistance.

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">In addition to passenger vehicles, Daimler’s commitment to the commercial-vehicle market rings clear with its Freightliner and Fuso truck brands. Daimler said first-quarter truck sales were up 8 percent while factory orders nearly doubled, a positive sign for the freight and transportation industry. Bus and van sales improved 23 and 62 percent, respectively.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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