BRUSSELS - Mercedes-Benz's new A class is already taking sales from its competitors.
Mercedes is gaining 500 orders a day in Germany, even though the new small car won't reach dealerships until September. More than a third are coming from Volkswagen Golf owners, said Juergen Hubbert, Daimler-Benz board member in charge of passenger cars. Eighty percent of orders are conquests, he said.
Speaking at the Automotive News Europe Congress, Hubbert said that Daimler-Benz will not buy another carmaker or develop a world car for emerging markets - two scenarios considered by the company in 1993.
He said the company will focus on mature markets where its vehicles are now sold.
But it will also enter markets like Brazil and India and consider new vehicle segments.
The leap into new segments followed a realization a few years ago that 'the good times are over,' Hubbert said.
'Forty years of success hurts the character,' he said.
New models like the A class and M class sport-utility, which goes on sale in the US in September, will raise Mercedes' car volume from 645,000 units to more than one million by 2000, he said.
The successful debut of Toyota's Lexus and Nissan's Infiniti ranges in the US in 1991-92 was a wake-up call. 'For the first time I got the message that Mercedes-Benz was good, but not worth the price,' said Hubbert.
Mercedes' E420 now costs less than its two Japanese luxury-car rivals thanks to cost cutting and repositioning of the car, he said.
Today, he said, Mercedes has its youngest product range ever.