Daimler hopes to unseat BMW with new models

09:31, January 13, 2010      

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Daimler AG, the world's second-largest maker of luxury vehicles, plans to challenge Bayerische Motoren Werke AG's leadership by rolling out new technology and models that reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.

"We will attack this year definitely," Thomas Weber, Daimler's development chief, said in an interview at the Detroit auto show. "There is no reason why we should look to others. They have to look to us; we're setting the benchmark."

Daimler plans to use half of this year's 4.4 billion euros ($6.4 billion) in research-and-development spending on green technology, Weber said. Daimler's Mercedes-Benz trails only Munich-based BMW in deliveries and also competes with Volkswagen AG's Audi division, which said it will decide this year whether to build cars at a new US factory.

Mercedes-Benz aims to outpace global growth of 3 percent to 4 percent in 2010 to take market share from competitors. BMW is targeting "single-digit" gains in deliveries, the carmaker's sales chief, Ian Robertson, said.

Daimler introduced a convertible version of the E-Class at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The open-top car, which includes a panel that deflects wind over the heads of back-seat passengers, rounds out the model line, which is one of Mercedes' most profitable.

E-Class competition

The carmaker is confident that the E-Class, which reached showrooms last March, can hold up against the new version of BMW's 5-Series sedan because it has wagon and coupe versions available, Weber said. Daimler is also starting deliveries of the gull-wing SLS sports car this year.

Full-year sales by Daimler's Mercedes-Benz Cars division, which includes the Smart minicar brand, fell 10 percent to 1.13 million cars and sport-utility vehicles. Sales at BMW, also including Mini and Rolls-Royce models, dropped 10 percent to 1.29 million vehicles.

Daimler's financial results were better in the fourth quarter than in the third, "as we predicted", Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said. Third-quarter net income totaled 41 million euros, an 80 percent drop from a year earlier, as revenue declined 19 percent to 19.3 billion euros.

Mercedes-Benz is targeting BMW's lead in reducing fuel emissions. The carmaker will introduce a new transmission this year that improves efficiency and will help it roll out so-called start-stop technology that turns off the engine at traffic lights to save fuel. Weber said start-stop will become standard in Mercedes-Benz models starting this year.

To boost its green credentials, Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler will add an electric-powered version of the A-Class compact in 2010. The carmaker is already producing a limited number of two electric models: a fuel cell-powered B-Class compact and a battery-driven Smart.

For 2011, Daimler intends to introduce a version of the E-Class that combines a diesel engine with electric motors to raise fuel economy to more than 40 miles per gallon, compared with 26 miles per gallon on the highway of the current gasoline-fueled model.

Source: China Daily
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