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Daimler hopes to sell 1,600 Mercedes cars

Neha Kaushik

New Delhi , Aug. 5

DAIMLERCHRYSLER India has set optimistic volume targets for the current year.

Mr Hans-Michael Huber, Managing Director and CEO, DaimlerChrysler India, told Business Line said that the company is confident of selling close to 1,600 Mercedes passenger cars in the current year, as compared to about 1,150 units sold in the last calendar year. "In fact, we believe this year will be the best ever, as far as domestic sales are concerned," he said.

This, despite the fact that the company had seen a decline in sales in 2002, as compared to the previous year.

"That was due to the phasing out of the E-class at that time," Mr Huber pointed out.

DaimlerChrysler has done a rework of its portfolio and has launched upgraded versions of the C-Class, S-Class and the E-Class over the past eight months.

The key volumes model for the company, meanwhile, would be the C-Class, the least expensive member of DaimlerChrysler's India portfolio, which has very recently been launched in a new, upgraded format.

"We are expecting volumes of the C-Class to increase to 750 cars this year from the about 560 sold last year. What is heartening is that while high-end families are going in for the S-Class, it is the high-income young professional who is increasingly the customer for the C-Class. An indication of this fact, is that a large part of our C-Class sales come from Bangalore which has got a large population of young, IT professionals," Mr Huber said.

The outlook for profitability, however, is less optimistic, and the company is expecting the same level of profits as last year. "This is principally because of the exchange rate, since we do import a bulk of the major parts from Germany for our cars. This has increased the cost base by about 20 per cent. However, we have not passed this on to the consumer," Mr Huber said.

DaimlerChrysler India made profits of Rs 39 crore last year.

A senior company official also said that it would come out of the purview of the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) in the next year and wipe out accumulated losses of Rs 300 crore in the next three to five years.

On being asked about future launches, particularly the high-end Maybach, Mr Huber said that the company is very interested in launching the Maybach. "We are conducting a thorough feasibility and are looking at homologation issues. However, if we do decide to bring in the car, we will do so around mid-2004," Mr Huber said. The car is expected to be priced upwards of Rs 3 crore in the Indian market.

Meanwhile, the company is also looking at the Indian market for introducing its commercial vehicles.

"We would like to participate in this segment in India. However, we will not be rushing in. We are still studying the market, and are watching the developments in this industry very closely," he said.

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