Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche today confirmed that the company expected China to be its biggest market as soon as 2015.
“We are expecting to be in the range of 300,000 units in China in 2015, which is very close to the market size we are enjoying in Germany right now,” said Zetsche. “We intend to grow those other [non-Chinese] markets, so it might not be until 2016 or 2017 that China becomes the largest market if we can generate significant growth in Germany.”
He also confirmed that the company has high expectations for the future - “How could you not be in a good mood after 2010?” - and specifically for the forthcoming A-class and B-class, which will lose their sandwich floor and custom engine designs in an effort to bring production costs under control.
“We sold 200,000 units of the first generation A-class, despite or because of the elk test,” said Zetsche. “We sold 270,000 of the second generation. The new models will have similar virtues to the current B-class. But we will build three further models using the same architecture and shared componentry.”
AMG boss Ola Kaellenius also confirmed that Merc’s performance division intends to sell AMG versions of the new A-class and B-class, as reported in Autocar last year. “In the performance sector, the combustion engine is far from done,” said Kaellenius, distancing himself from rumours of AMG hybrids in the immediate future.
The turbocharging technology is set to reappear in F1 in 2013 and Kaellenius confirmed that this would coincide with the launch (probably at the 2013 Geneva motor show) of highly tuned, turbocharged four-cylinder A-class and B-class models, focused away from the supermini sector in the sportback and small coupe segments. Merc insiders report that such engines are already achieving 300bhp in dyno tests.
Both men believe that the best opportunities for growth in western Europe lie in extending the product portfolio by introducing more models, rather than further pushing existing cars.