Mercedes-Benz passenger cars: Successful product initiative continues in 2005 with the B-Class and R

Mercedes-Benz passenger cars: Successful product initiative continues in 2005 with the B-Class and R-Class

B Class on test Dr. Eckhard Cordes (left), DaimlerChrysler Board of Management member with responsibility for the Mercedes Car Group, and Prof. Jürgen Hubbert, DaimlerChrysler Board of Management member with responsibility for the Executive Automotive Committee (EAC, effective October 2004) test-drive the future B-Class.

Mercedes-Benz, the world’s leading brand for premium passenger cars, heads towards the future on a solid basis. Under Professor Jürgen Hubbert’s stewardship, the passenger car brand has evolved from a specialised supplier of luxury-class automobiles into an exclusive manufacturer of premium vehicles in almost all market segments. Between 1993 and 2003 alone, Mercedes-Benz passenger car production rose from around 486,000 units to over one million vehicles per year. Dr Eckhard Cordes, the new head of the Mercedes Car Group since the beginning of October 2004, intends to continue the product and innovation initiative and establish Mercedes-Benz in other promising market segments. Two new Mercedes-Benz model series, the B-Class and the R-Class, will be launched over the coming year.

With sales of around 1.1 million passenger cars per year, Mercedes-Benz is the world's most successful premium car manufacturer. Passenger car sales figures doubled between 1993 and 2003, with turnover for all of the Mercedes Car Group brands soaring more than two-and-a-half-fold to €51.4 billion during the same period.

Mercedes-Benz’s success is largely due to its extensive, systematic analysis of customer requirements and trends within society. Thanks to this approach the Stuttgart-based manufacturer realised at the start of the nineties that customer expectations and, in turn, demand within the car market were changing. The traditional segmentation of the passenger car business into compact car, mid-size and upper category no longer applied while demand for new vehicle variants was increasing: cabriolets, roadsters, coupés, off-roaders and concepts that also offer a high recreational value in addition to meeting pure transportation needs have been going strong ever since. Market niches have consequently turned into booming market segments.

Mercedes-Benz is now also well on track with its second product initiative. With the CLS-Class four-door Coupé and the B-Class and R-Class Sports Tourers, the passenger car brand has now once again laid the foundations for new, groundbreaking market segments and additional profitable growth.

24 new models between spring 1993 and autumn 2004

The unveiling by Mercedes-Benz of a new coupé study at the Geneva Motor Show in 1993 signalled the start of the product and innovation initiative. The twin-headlamp front end sported by the design study took to the road just two years later in the form of the E-Class, and became symbolic of a new brand identity and a new strategic focus of the entire passenger car product portfolio. Between spring 1993 and autumn 2004, Mercedes-Benz unveiled 24 new models. While Mercedes-Benz boasted five model series in its passenger car line-up back then, today customers of the Stuttgart-based manufacturer can choose between twelve passenger car model series with well over 120 body and engine variants.

This dynamic momentum of the oldest passenger car brand is set to continue. In 2005 the new B-Class and R-Class will extend the passenger car range once more.

The positive image and huge popularity of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars along with their impressive conquest rates are testimony to the product initiative’s success. Conquest rates of between 40 and 60 per cent help Mercedes Benz gain new customers every day. The A-Class and M-Class, the SLK-Class Roadster plus the CLK-Class Coupé and Cabriolet were important trendsetters that allowed the Stuttgart-based manufacturer to redefine hitherto unexploited passenger car segments. These models contribute significantly to ensuring that far more young people now opt for Mercedes-Benz than was the case ten years ago.

Design and high-tech: Mercedes-Benz hallmarks

High-quality design coupled with advanced technology underpin the successful position of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars in the car market, not least because both aspects have become key purchase criteria.

The dynamic and progressive lines of the Mercedes models have become symbolic in several respects: they reflect the new brand profile, arouse lasting enthusiasm for the models bearing the Mercedes star and are in tune with the contemporary aspiration that sees car design and equipment features as a way of expressing a personal lifestyle. Numerous international awards and accolades are testimony to the high-quality design of the Mercedes models.

At the same time, Mercedes-Benz is setting new trends in the area of customer-focused innovation, an aspiration the company meets with each new model. Over the past ten years, more than 50 new technical developments have gone into production for the first time, significantly improving safety, environment-friendliness and comfort. Milestones in automotive technology include the Electronic Stability Program ESP® (1995), sidebags and belt force limiters (1995), Brake Assist (1996), the sandwich-floor concept (1997), windowbags (1998), DISTRONIC (1998), the Active Body Control suspension system (1999), the anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE (2002) and the world's first automatic car transmission with seven gears (2003). These kinds of innovations have enabled Mercedes-Benz to maintain its position among vehicle manufacturers as a leader in technology for over 100 years.

Increased productivity, greater global presence

The product initiative for the Mercedes-Benz brand also includes the productivity and globalisation initiatives launched at the same time. New or modernised facilities have allowed state-of-the-art plant and equipment as well as cutting-edge manufacturing concepts to be introduced in the German plants, which have in turn seen significant increases in productivity. Examples of this strategy include the engine and transmission plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, the A-Class production facilities in Rastatt, the state-of-the-art plants at the Sindelfingen site as well as the Bremen plant.

The Mercedes Production System (MPS) that has been in place since the end of 2002 in all plants has paved the way for improvements in the areas of quality and productivity. This system draws on both experience gained from traditional assembly line production and also current elements of group work. As a result, employees are involved far more in designing individual workflows than in the past, an approach that has helped improve process reliability and efficiency.

Milestones of the globalisation initiative include the expansion of the plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the M-Class has been produced since 1997. Investments in the expansion amount to more than €600 million.

New Mercedes-Benz passenger cars since 1993

Spring 1993:
C-Class (202 model series)

Spring 1995:
E-Class (210 model series)

Spring 1996:
C-Class Estate (202 model series)
E-Class Estate (210 model series)
SLK-Class (170 model series)

Spring 1997:
A-Class (168 model series)
CLK-Class Coupé (208 model series)
M-Class (163 model series)

Spring 1998:
CLK-Class Cabriolet (208 model series)

Autumn 1998:
S-Class (220 model series)

Spring 1999:
CL-Class (215 model series)

Spring 2000:
C-Class (203 model series)

Autumn 2000:
C-Class Sports Coupé (203 model series)

Spring 2001:
C-Class Estate (203 model series)
A-Class long-wheelbase version (168 model series)

Summer 2001:
SL-Class (230 model series)

Spring 2002:
E-Class (211 model series)
CLK-Class Coupé (209 model series)

Spring 2003:
E-Class Estate (211 model series)
CLK-Class Cabriolet (209 model series)

Autumn 2003:
SLR McLaren

Spring 2004:
SLK-Class (171 model series)
CLS-Class (219 model series)

Summer 2004:
A-Class (169 model series)