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August 31, 2009

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Mercedes-Benz goes to top of class

GERMAN car maker Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd officially began the domestic sales of its new generation of S-Class luxury sedans in Beijing on Friday.

The company is counting on the iconic model to keep its leading position in the luxury car segment and continue its success in China.

The full array of the new S-Class luxury sedans, the ninth generation, includes nine models with engine capacities ranging from 3.0 liters to 6.0 liters and will sell for between 930,000 yuan (US$136,144) and 2.59 million yuan in China.

In order to meet the growing demand for energy-saving and eco-friendly vehicles, the new S-Class family has also added the S400 Hybrid, the world's first series-production vehicle to feature a hybrid drive with a lithium-ion battery.

"Currently, China has become the largest S-Class market in the world, and the flagship model continued to reign in the top luxury segment with 7,300 units delivered to Chinese customers in the past seven months," said Klaus Maier, president and chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd.

"With such success, we are confident that the new generation models will extend the S-Class leadership position, and attract even more of China's top-echelon customers."

As the flagship model of Mercedes-Benz, the S-Class is designed to set the benchmark in the luxury saloon segment. Worldwide sales of the legendary models reached 3.3 million units for the previous generations.

The product line-up made a great contribution to Mercedes-Benz's overall sales in China and became strategically important for the German car maker to reinforce a leading position in the world's fastest-growing market.

Maier said the S-Class's market share in the top luxury car market came to 44 percent for the first seven months, leading against rivals the BMW 7 Series and the Audi A8.

"The S-Class is so popular because the Mercedes-Benz brand is the most recognized nameplate in China's top luxury vehicle segment, whose customers are most brand-sensitive," said Lang Xuehong, director of the automotive division from auto consulting research and consulting firm Sinotrust.

Mercedes-Benz said its vehicle sales on China's mainland posted a 49 percent increase for the first seven months of this year, totaling 31,711 cars.

Sales growth in July reached 45 percent.

Industry analysts said the remarkable sales increase was a result of its low comparable bases a year earlier. But the diverse product strategy also works effectively to catch with the current market leader in China, Audi.

Despite the global financial crisis depressing demand in other markets, Mercedes-Benz expected the growing momentum in China would continue in the second half of this year given the positive economic growth and low market penetration of the premier cars, said Bjoern Hauber, general manager of sales and marketing of Mercedes-Benz (China).

Mercedes-Benz has introduced about 10 new models, such as the B-Class, the new E-Class and the Smart, in China so far this year. Some entry-level models expand its customer base with appeals to younger consumers.

In the upcoming months, Mercedes-Benz also plans to launch more than 10 new models as it remained upbeat about China's luxury car market, Maier told Shanghai Daily.


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