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Mercedes plans to drive in 12 new cars in India

Mercedes

NEW DELHI: After a marginal dip in volumes last year, Mercedes Benz has said that sales will bounce back in 2017 as demand picks up on the back of new models and positive economic trends.

Roland Folger, MD & CEO of Mercedes Benz India, said that numbers for the company – that leads the luxury car market – will grow by double digits after a flat performance last year where demand was impacted by a series of negatives such as the ban on larger diesel engines in the Delhi-NCR region and demonetisation.

“We are extremely positive this year, and demand is building up strongly,” Folger said after driving in the long-wheelbase version of the E-Class sedan, prices for which start at Rs 56 lakh for the petrol version and Rs 69 lakh for diesel (both ex-showroom Mumbai).

The company sold 13,231 units last year, a shade lower than the 13,502 units achieved in the previous year, and Folger had termed 2016 as the “year of lost opportunities”.

But the situation is changing now, and numbers will be aided by product roll-outs and attractive financing and service packages.

Folger said that at least a dozen products will be introduced this year, and these will include all-new vehicles as well as variants and upgrades.

The long wheelbase version on the new-generation E-Class is a first in the category, and the car is 140 mm longer (in both wheelbase and length) than the standard version variant.

“Majority of the cars sold in this category are chauffeur driven, and hence it was a natural decision for us to introduce the long wheelbase version. India is the only country in the world to offer a right-hand drive long wheelbase version, and it took almost 48 months to develop this vehicle from scratch,” Folger said.

Speaking about competition in the market, he said that the company is confident of maintaining its lead over rivals. “We are confident of holding on to our leadership position. There is no way we are going to let that slip.”

Audi’s numbers slipped in 2016, and sold less than 10,000 cars last year. For BMW, the volumes were at 7,861 units.

While Audi has appointed Rahil Ansari – a person of Indian origin — to head its operations here, BMW has banked on a local, Vikram Pawah, who has taken charge as the company’s president in India.

“Our strategy is in place, and is backed by a strong local leadership across various departments. We are confident of widening the lead that we have over competitors,” Folger said.

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