According to Chinese media reports Mercedes China will have a new boss come December, London born Nicholas Speeks will be taking over the top China job and has plenty of experience in running an Asian market after a number of years as the top man in Japan for Mercedes.
Mercedes Benz is apparently going through a period of adjustment at the top of the company with new talent being brought into China in an attempt to improve the Chinese market, which is currently the third biggest market for Mercedes. The sales gap between Mercedes and its German rivals is increasing each month, recent statistics from Mercedes Benz indicated that the company sold 16,800 cars in September in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, an increase of 10% over last year. In the first 9 months of this year Mercedes Benz sold 145,000 cars in the Chinese market whilst competitors raced ahead, BMW sold 237,100 cars and Audi sold 297,100 an increase of 34 and 31 percent, making MB’s 2009 promise to catch up and exceed its rivals China sales within 3 years a wash out.
Statistics from the China Association of Automotive Manufacturers indicate that MB is far behind in the Chinese market, in the first seven months of the year FAW-Audi’s main models, the A4L and A6L saw a 35.15% increase in sales to 143,200 units and BMW’s 3 and 5 series reached 66,600 units, an increase of 20.77% whilst Mercedes own C and E-Class sold just 33,300 units, a decrease of 7.48%
On the product front it is difficult to see where Mercedes have their strengths, the C-Class has dropped by a large margin in price but its compact size has left it far behind the ever so popular A4L and 3-Series in terms of sales, add in the new stretched 3-Series and it seems that the C-Class has no competitive edge. In 2008 Audi and Mercedes both launched their compact SUV offerings at the same time in Beijing, four years later the GLK and Audi Q5 are both on the market but one has only just made it to Chinese product lines whilst the other has already been made in China for several years with smaller, more efficient engines. Of course, Audi are better at playing the Chinese market than its rivals.
The E-Class was supposed to be the big game changer for Mercedes in China, its size was supposed to put it on par with the 5-Series and A6L but prior to the launch Mercedes tried to move its stocks of imported E-Class with large discounts which made it a much talked about model. Post launch the E-Class went back to its original pricing, meaning Chinese consumers weren’t much interested in the model anymore.
Earlier this week the revised and China made 2013 GLK SUV hit the Chinese market, four years after it was first introduced into China. The ‘New GLK’ has lost its boxy image and has more rounded corners, the 2013 models starts 410,000RMB and rises to just over 550,000RMB for the top of the line model, all of the three models on sale come with a six cylinder engine, although a smaller 1.8T gasoline version is expected to launch in mid to late 2013.
Speeks will have a large task ahead of him as he tries to haul in the Chinese market for Mercedes, but his resume is well packed with international history, he worked in Iraq, Poland, Japan, Vietnam and several other countries during his career, his work so far seems to be quite exemplary with Mercedes Japan posting an 18% sales growth in September 2012, far ahead of China’s mere 10%.