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U.S. Mercedes-Benz Boss Talks to TACH: 1997 Sales Outlook, New M320 Sport Ute will Help

28 August 1997

Michael Brassermann, CEO of Mercedes Benz, North America, appears to the automotive press as the tuetonic equivalent of much loved ex-V.P. of Chevrolet, Jim Perkins. Both guys are on top of every phase of their operations, trends, competitive activity and are willing to sit in the middle of a gang-bang discussion of the car biz with media types.

Brassermann, introducing the $33,900 MB M-320 Sport Ute discussed the MB state of the U.S. situation sales and dealer-wise. The German auto maker is going to have their best U.S. sales year ever and are looking at retailing 100,000 vehicles. Through July they have sold 58,700 and add the SLK sports car, plus 30,000 M-320 Sport Utes to the mix he will make his goal. Everything is selling well: C-class, E, S and SL.

Next month MB will start a new promotional theme...._Falling in love_. The idea is to romance new customers and urge old customers to come along and fall in love (with the marque) all over again.

He said that MB is not entering the sport utility market late but at the correct time. MB will attract that customer who owns an MB sedan and perhaps a Jeep Cherokee or Ford Explorer and now they can own a Mercedes Sport ute with more/better features and a lower price.

M-320 Marketing philosophy Research shows 25% of Mercedes owners also own a SUV. The compact SUV market consists of vehicles in the $28,000 plus range which puts MB up against Jeep Cherokee and Ford Explorer . . . NOT Expedition. In 1980 sales of light trucks/SUVs were 20% of the mix and by 2000 it will be 47%. One of every 4 vehicles on the street over $28,000 is a sport ute and the Big 3 has 70% of these vehicle sales. The buyer of a $28,000 is 25-34 years of age.

The number one vehicle seller today is not a car . . . it's a Ford truck. Mercedes has done its homework and is on a roll sales-wise.

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel