Mercedes-Benz USA expects a new family of small vehicles and future derivatives of its compact C-class sedan to drive a 30 percent sales increase in the next five years.
Opportunities for growth are limited for Mercedes' larger E- and S-class cars, CEO Ernst Lieb said in an interview. So the German luxury brand is betting on success in smaller segments in which it doesn't currently compete.
"The potential is there," said Lieb. "Even if the market doesn't grow by a huge rate and stays at 13 or 14 million, the majority of these buyers will be in that lower segment."
Mercedes's U.S. sales are up 26 percent through April to 68,826 units. Last year it sold 190,538 vehicles in the United States.
Mercedes plans a small-car blitz starting in 2012, with three vehicles -- a coupe, crossover and sedan -- based on a new generation of the B class sold in Europe.
When the redesigned C class launches in 2013, Mercedes will add a convertible and possibly other variants. A coupe based on the current C class goes on sale next year.
"If we want to grow, this is the segment that we have to grow -- and below it," said Lieb.
BMW has a 3-series sedan, coupe, convertible and station wagon. So Lieb said Mercedes will have "an opportunity to meet our competitors at their own game."
"Everybody wants to be Mercedes-Benz," he said. "They are after us in the S- and E-class segment. With C class, we're sitting with a four-door sedan and not doing anything else. Now we will go into segments where [competitors] are strong."