Modified: February 22, 2013 8:42 AM
Zetsche aims to lift Mercedes' China sales 50% by 2015
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche aims to raise Mercedes-Benz's brand sales in China by 50 percent to 300,000 units by 2015.
Zetsche said two-thirds of Mercedes vehicles sold in China in 2015 will be produced in the country. He was speaking at Daimler's annual press conference in Stuttgart earlier this month.
Daimler will soon launch an engine plant in Beijing, and will expand Chinese production of its C-class sedan, long-wheelbase E-class sedan, and its GLK SUV. Production of the compact B class will also start in China.
To sell those cars, Mercedes will add 50 new dealerships each year -- mostly in China's interior cities.
Zetsche announced the turnaround plan after Mercedes-Benz brand sales in China last year rose only 2 percent to 196,211 units. By contrast, BMW brand sales jumped 37 percent to 274,985 units, while premium segment leader Audi's sales soared 30 percent to 405,800 vehicles.
In December, Daimler merged its Chinese sales operations for imported and locally produced Mercedes cars, and named Hubertus Troska to the management board with responsibility for China, a new position.
Earlier this month, the company announced that it would acquire a 12-percent stake in BAIC Motors Inc., its Chinese joint venture partner, and would gain two seats on that company's board of directors.
"These changes will not have obvious effects overnight, but they will start to make a positive impact over the course of this year," Zetsche said.