Mercedes-Benz Consistently Implements Its 2020 Growth Strategy

-- Best-ever first quarter expected for unit sales

-- Plant opening in Kecskemet is another milestone on the way to the top

-- Dr. Dieter Zetsche: "We have a fighting spirit in the entire organization to become the leading manufacturer of premium automobiles once again also in terms of unit sales."

Mar 29, 2012, 03:35 ET from Daimler Corporate Communications

KECSKEMET, Hungary, March 29, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Daimler AG sees Mercedes-Benz well on its way to achieving the goals of its 2020 growth strategy and reclaiming the number one position in the premium segment by the end of the decade.

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Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, stated to investors and analysts at the opening of the new plant in Kecskemet, Hungary: "Mercedes-Benz is consistently implementing its growth strategy. We have a fighting spirit in the entire organization to become the leading manufacturer of premium automobiles once again also in terms of unit sales. We are aware of the challenges and we will master them."

Following the successful year 2011, in which the division posted new records for unit sales, revenue and earnings, the year 2012 has also started well. Mercedes-Benz Cars is expected to report the best unit sales it has ever achieved in a first quarter.

With its Mercedes-Benz 2020 growth strategy, the Mercedes-Benz Cars division intends to occupy the number one position in the premium segment not only in terms of brand, products and profitability, but also of unit sales. Zetsche left no doubt that all efforts are being made to achieve those four goals, with the support of a large number of activities.

With regards to the Mercedes-Benz brand, Daimler is further strengthening its core brand values of fascination, perfection and responsibility to broaden the customer base and address younger customers. This will be facilitated by the five new models of the new-generation compact car, and also by highly emotive vehicles such as the CLS Shooting Brake.

With products, the automobile portfolio is being rejuvenated and a third product offensive has been started with 10 new derivatives for which no predecessor models exist to be launched by the year 2015. For example, the luxury segment will be enlarged by expanding the S-Class range from three to six models with highly profitable derivatives.

The planned activities also include further reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. "We are convinced that 'cool' and 'green' can peacefully coexist in our garages," said Zetsche. Mercedes-Benz Cars will be able to reduce the average CO2 emissions of its automobiles sold in the European Union from today's 150 grams per kilometer to 125 g/km by the year 2016. The new A-Class will start with emissions of 99 g/km.

In order to further increase unit sales, the automobile portfolio will be successively expanded and geographical presence will be broadened by expanding sales structures and production capacities, especially in the NAFTA region and in China.

There will be a positive impact on the progress to the top of the premium segment from the fact that the automotive industry continues to be a growth industry. According to forecasts, worldwide car sales will increase from 60 million units in 2011 to 100 million units in 2020. China is already the world's biggest market in terms of unit sales and will remain so in 2020, but the country's car market will have doubled by then. China therefore remains a cornerstone of Mercedes-Benz Cars' growth strategy. The second-most important sales market, the United States, is projected to have an annual average growth rate in the premium segment of 5.6%. And India will advance to become the world's third-largest car market by 2020.

Irrespective of this development, a clear target has been set of "achieving above-average growth in those markets and of further improving our competitive position," stated Zetsche. In this context, he affirmed the medium-term target for unit sales of Mercedes-Benz: sales of more than 1.5 million vehicles in 2014 and more than 1.6 million in 2015 (2011: 1,279,100). Zetsche pointed out that the emphasis was on the word "more."

Mercedes-Benz Cars will further improve its profitability by means of project-related cooperation such as with Renault/Nissan, as well as through savings achieved from the module and platform strategies and improved efficiency in the value chain. At the same time, the enhanced flexibility of the international production network will make it possible to react faster to fluctuations in demand.

Due to savings from the module strategy and further efficiency actions, the division will be able to compensate for the cost burden anticipated in the automotive industry from rising raw-material prices and investments to reduce CO2 emissions, thus safeguarding its profitability targets. "At Mercedes-Benz Cars, we are approaching our targeted return on sales of 10 percent, which we want to achieve on a sustained basis as of 2013 – on the assumption that our business environment will remain stable," emphasized Zetsche.

How the Mercedes-Benz 2020 growth strategy works in practice can first be seen in the compact-car segment. The new plant in Kecskemet is a state-of-the-art factory for Mercedes-Benz Cars; it will produce cars in conjunction with the plant in Rastatt and will make a key contribution to economy through volume flexibility.

Profitability in the compact-car segment will be additionally improved compared with the predecessor generation by producing a significantly higher volume of five different cars from the same architecture instead of two, and by spreading the production network over three plants (Rastatt/Germany, Kecskemet/Hungary and Beijing/China).

On the occasion of the opening of the new plant for the production of the new B-Class, Daimler had invited investors and analysts to attend a division day in Kecskemet in Hungary.

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About Daimler
Daimler AG is one of the world's most successful automotive companies. With its divisions Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler Trucks, Mercedes-Benz Vans, Daimler Buses and Daimler Financial Services, the Daimler Group is one of the biggest producers of premium cars and the world's biggest manufacturer of commercial vehicles with a global reach. Daimler Financial Services provides financing, leasing, fleet management, insurance and innovative mobility services. The company's founders, Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz, made history with the invention of the automobile in the year 1886. As a pioneer of automotive engineering, Daimler continues to shape the future of mobility today: The Group's focus is on innovative and green technologies as well as on safe and superior automobiles that appeal to and fascinate its customers. For many years now, Daimler has been investing continually in the development of alternative drive systems with the goal of making emission-free driving possible in the long term. So in addition to vehicles with hybrid drive, Daimler now has the broadest range of locally emission-free electric vehicles powered by batteries and fuel cells. This is just one example of how Daimler willingly accepts the challenge of meeting its responsibility towards society and the environment. Daimler sells its vehicles and services in nearly all the countries of the world and has production facilities on five continents. Its current brand portfolio includes, in addition to the world's most valuable premium automotive brand, Mercedes-Benz, the brands smart, Maybach, Freightliner, Western Star, BharatBenz, Fuso, Setra, Orion and Thomas Built Buses. The company is listed on the stock exchanges of Frankfurt and Stuttgart (stock exchange symbol DAI). In 2011, the Group sold 2.1 million vehicles and employed a workforce of more than 271,000 people; revenue totaled euro 106.5 billion and EBIT amounted to euro 8.8 billion.

SOURCE Daimler Corporate Communications