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August 31, 2009

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Company has long-term confidence

WHILE the international luxury car market is still feeling the impact of the global financial crisis, the launch of the new generation of S-Class demonstrates Mercedes-Benz's long-term confidence in China.

Bjoern Hauber, general manager of sales and marketing for Mercedes-Benz (China), talked with Shanghai Daily about the company's expectations for the strategic model and the German car maker's view toward China's premier car market.

SD: Who are the targeted consumers for the new S-Class in China?

BH: Generally speaking, the S-Class luxury sedan is a car for social elites and successful business leaders as it can meet their requirements for both business and everyday use.

SD: What's the market position of the S-Class in China's premier car market? Do you have any sales expectations for the new S-Class?

BH: The S-Class sedan has improved market share to 44 percent in the top premier car segment in China, making the model a true leader. It also contributed a lot to the growth and overall sales of Mercedes-Benz in the first seven months. Last year, we delivered a total of 13,800 S-Class models to the Chinese market and I am very confident about the success of the new generation.

SD: China's overall auto sales rose 23 percent for the first seven months and the premier car market expanded by 17 percent. How do you view the market growth in the second half? Will a series of new product launches help you to archive new sales records?

BH: We think the series of stimulus measures adopted by the Chinese government were very effective and timely. I expect the growth will go on. For Mercedes-Benz, we aim not only to outperform the market growth but also to grow over our key competitors. I am confident we will meet the target of 50,000 units this year.

SD: What sort of market response do you expect for hybrid technologies in developing countries like China?

BH: We introduced the S400 after its global debut at the Shanghai Auto Show in April this year. Its lithium battery is small in size and big in capacity. This saves a lot of storage space, which is quite different from other hybrid vehicles.

I clearly see the trend for more environmentally friendly cars toward stricter regulations by the government in terms of fuel consumption. So there is clearly a market for hybrid technologies. For our overall hybrid strategy, we are closely monitoring the market and customers' requirements and I can assure you there will be new models offered with the hybrid technologies.

SD: What's your feelings on China's luxury car market and what kind of measures would you take to retain a leading position?

BH: The ratio of the premier car toward the total segment in the European Union or North America is roughly one premier model in every five cars. In China, the ratio is roughly one to 10. So if the economy keeps growing, there is still big potential for the premier segments in the Chinese market.

We put a lot of focus on underlying customer requirements to make sure we can meet their demands. We have opened an advanced design center in Beijing to better understand future design trends in terms of colors, shapesand materials. This information will be used by our colleagues to make models moreapplicable to Chinese requirements.


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