STUTTGART – Daimler won't slash its workforce to close the gap with rivals BMW and Audi in terms of profitability, Wilfried Porth, the company's personnel chief said.
"I see no reason to look exclusively at personnel when it comes to increasing efficiency," Porth told Reuters in an interview, adding staff costs account for less than a fifth of group expenses.
Daimler's Mercedes, which had a 9 percent operating margin in 2011, has been lagging Audi and BMW in terms of profitability, even though the two tend to sell cars priced below those of Mercedes.
BMW and Audi have yet to report full-year 2011 results.
Daimler had 271,000 employees around the world last year, of whom almost 168,000 were based in Germany, and Daimler plans to further increase that number this year.
"In 2012 we currently expect a positive development," Porth said, though he added staff numbers will growth more slowly this year than in 2011, when the company hired 14,000 new workers.
Daimler has vowed to retake the luxury-car lead from BMW after dropping last year to third place behind Audi.
In 2011, Mercedes reported brand sales of 1.26 million units, behind Audi with 1.3 million and leader BMW, which sold 1.38 million cars and SUVs.
To outpace its rivals, Mercedes plans to introduce 10 new models by 2015, including compacts and the CLS Shooting Brake, a wagon-like variant of the four-door coupe.
In 2012, Mercedes aims to beat the record deliveries in 2011 and targets faster growth than the forecast pace of 4 percent for the global auto market on demand for the revamped B-class compact and a new A-class hatchback.
The models are part of a line of five small cars that the automaker is developing to win over younger customers. Mercedes also plans to double the variants of the S-class flagship to six after a new version is introduced in 2013.
The automaker is also spending about 2 billion euros to expand production in China and is investing an additional $2.4 billion in its U.S. plant.
In Europe too, Mercedes will open a new 800 million-euro factory in Hungary this year in a bid to reclaim the top spot in luxury vehicles that it lost in 2005.
The brand aims to sell 1.5 million autos by 2014 and 1.6 million by 2015.
Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg and Automotive News Europe