Mercedes Winged SLS Targets Porsche, Luxury Supremacy (Update2) – Bloomberg

30 Jul 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Mercedes Winged SLS Targets Porsche, Luxury Supremacy (Update2) – Bloomberg
Mercedes SLS AMG

Mercedes Winged SLS Targets Porsche, Luxury Supremacy (Update2)

Mercedes SLS AMG

March 26 (Bloomberg) — Daimler AG’s new Mercedes-Benz sports car is luring customers away from Porsche SE’s iconic 911, even before the gullwing SLS AMG reaches dealers.

Orders placed in advance of tomorrow’s showroom debut in Germany mean that new customers may wait until 2012 to get behind the wheel of the 177,310-euro ($237,000) supercar. The sales have been taking a bite out of demand for Porsche as Daimler battles to attract younger, affluent drivers to Mercedes.

“The inflow from the Porsche camp is intriguing; we’ve already had a lot of conquests,” said Thomas Rosier, managing director of Autohaus Rosier GmbH in Oldenburg near Bremen. The family-owned retailer, with 40 locations in Germany offering Mercedes, Peugeot and Volkswagen models, has sold 40 SLS cars and could have agreed to deliver more if stock was available.

Sales of Mercedes, the world’s second-largest maker of luxury vehicles, slid 10 percent in 2009. Daimler, the parent company, introduced the 571-horsepower SLS, with doors that hinge at the roof and rise up like wings when opened, to boost the sporty appeal of the brand and garner younger drivers to challenge luxury leader Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. which doesn’t have a rival model.

Mercedes buyers in Germany are 55.6 years old on average, 10 years older than BMW drivers and nine years older than buyers of Volkswagen’s Audi, according to a July 2009 study by Sinus Sociovision, a Heidelberg-based research firm. Porsche 911 drivers are in their late 40s, according to the company.

Mercedes ‘Beacon’

“The SLS is a hallmark, landmark, beacon product for Mercedes,” said Christoph Stuermer. a Frankfurt-based automotive analyst at research firm IHS Global Insight who estimates that the manufacturer will produce about 2,500 SLS cars a year. “Producing this model is very important for Mercedes as a brand. It’s a very motivational product.”

Rosier said young and old customers are “equally enthusiastic” about the SLS, which will start U.S. deliveries in early May.

Porsche. which is merging with Volkswagen, shrugged off the competition from the new Mercedes, which costs 4,000 euros more than a top-of-the-line 911 Turbo S. Porsche sold 27,070 911s in fiscal 2009, the lowest volume in five years.

“We are the market leader in the sports-car segment in Germany, with a market share of 65 percent, and increased share last year, even though the overall segment declined,” said Albrecht Bamler. a spokesman for Porsche at its headquarters across town from Daimler in Stuttgart.

iPhone, Games

Aware that Mercedes-Benz had been hampered by a stodgy image, Daimler rolled out an SLS driving game for Apple Inc.’s iPhone. The model is being used as the safety car for the Formula 1 auto racing circuit and is being promoted by seven-time championship driver Michael Schumacher in a television advertisement. The SLS also will grace the cover of the next Gran Turismo car-racing video game for Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3, a first for Mercedes.

Some dealers are making an event out of the introduction. The Munich store expects 3,000 to 4,000 people at presentations of the SLS and new convertible E-Class, which also debuts tomorrow. The festivities, accompanied by local Radio Arabella, will include a demonstration by celebrity hair stylist Gerhard Meir and toy-car races for kids, according to Dirk Beneditz of the Mercedes-Benz Center in BMW’s hometown.

More Production

After orders “significantly” exceeded expectations, the manufacturer “moderately” increased SLS production at its plant in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, sales chief Joachim Schmidt said in an interview last month. Daimler declined to provide details of production levels for the SLS, the first vehicle developed by the AMG performance unit, and wouldn’t reveal order figures.

“Discounts, which dominate auto sales, don’t play a role with such a car,” said Rosier, a 20-year auto sales veteran and president of the fan club for the 300 SL, the 1950s original gullwing Mercedes. “We’re hoping for a special allotment. The years 2010 and 2011 have long since been sold out.”

Even with demand high, SLS sales may do little to help Mercedes challenge BMW and fend off Audi. The Daimler unit, which includes the Smart mini-car brand, aims to boost sales from 1.26 million vehicles last year to 1.5 million by 2015, the same year Audi intends to overtake both Mercedes and BMW as the luxury leader.

Mercedes SLS AMG

BMW was just ahead of Mercedes in 2009, with 1.29 million vehicle sales. Audi delivered 949,700 vehicles last year and Porsche sold 75,238 cars and sport-utility vehicles in the 12 months through July 31.

Share Performance

Daimler, which is also the world’s largest truckmaker, has fallen 6 percent this year in Frankfurt trading, while BMW is up 7.6 percent and Porsche has gained 3.2 percent. Analyst recommendations on Daimler and BMW are equal, with 55 percent of those surveyed by Bloomberg advocating purchase of the shares.

Daimler shares were little changed at 34.98 euros today, while the DAX Index of the 30 largest German stocks including Daimler fell 0.2 percent. Daimler’s market valuation is 37.1 billion euros.

“In the grand scheme of things, the success of the SLS isn’t going to move the needle,” said Mike Tyndall. an automotive specialist at Nomura Securities in London. “It adds a bit of sex appeal to quite a conservative product line.”

By reaching 100 kilometers per hour in 3.8 seconds, the SLS outguns some of its closest rivals, beating out the Aston Martin V12 by four-tenths of a second and the Audi R8 by one-tenth.

Built for Speed

The Mercedes speedster, which will compete with the new MP4 supercar from former partner McLaren Group, can’t keep pace with Volkswagen’s exotic sports cars like the Lamborghini Murcielago, which can surge to 100 kilometers per hour in 3.2 seconds, or the 1,001-horsepower Bugatti Veyron, which needs just 2.5 seconds to reach 100. But the combination of modern performance and nostalgic design thwarts most comparisons.

“At the delivery of our showroom car, there was a pause at the dealership because everyone shared the enthusiasm,” salesman Rosier said. “There’s a bit of pride running through all the staff again.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Reiter in Berlin at creiter2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net .

Mercedes SLS AMG
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