Mercedes-Benz is set to become the first luxury brand in the world to launch new models in China before traditional markets like the U.S. or Europe.
This is a bold decision on Mercedes’ part, one which emphasizes the growing significance of the Chinese audience and will definitely raise a few eye-brows in the process.
“In the past China wasn’t part of the first roll out phase, which is perhaps a reason why we were a little bit behind,” Mercedes development chief Thomas Weber has revealed to Automotive News Europe. Weber refused to pin-point the exact upcoming (brand-new) model Mercedes-Benz could first debut in China.
The weaker position in China undermines Mercedes efforts to narrow the gap with Audi and BMW on a global scale. But, priorities have changed for Daimler over the past two years. The Germans built their first engine plant outside of Germany and unified local sales and distribution networks, adding 79 new dealerships and a 12 percent stake in joint venture partner BAIC Motor, worth 627 million euros.
As a result, the GLA compact SUV will roll off the assembly line early this year in addition to the already locally-made GLK crossover and long wheelbase versions of the E- and C-class sedans. A 1 billion euro investment by Daimler and BAIC will allow Mercedes-Benz to assembly compact cars at its joint venture plant in Beijing.
The short-therm sales target aims for more than 300,000 cars in China this year. Two-thirds of these cars are expected to be build locally.