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Mercedes forecasts greater demand

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Mercedes forecasts greater demand

Chris Reiter / Bloomberg News

Daimler AG, the second-largest maker of luxury vehicles, predicts that the revamped CLS luxury coupe and cleaner engines will boost sales next year, putting it on track to reach its target of 1.5 million cars by 2015.

The Mercedes-Benz Cars unit will introduce a version of the CLS at the Paris Motor Show this week. The restyled four-door coupe, featuring broader shoulder lines and a prominent three-pointed star in the center of the grill, will go on sale in January starting at $85,500, said Joachim Schmidt, executive vice president for sales and marketing.

Surging growth in China and a recovery in the U.S. are boosting demand for Mercedes vehicles a year after the financial crisis led to a 14 percent sales decline. The Daimler unit expects to claw back most of that setback in 2010, forecasting sales to gain at least 10 percent.

"We have an abundance of product innovations that make us optimistic that we will have a successful 2011," Schmidt said in an interview at his office in Stuttgart, Germany.

The new CLS will likely surpass the 170,000 units sold of the current version over the course of its lifecycle, Schmidt said. The model was introduced in 2004.

The restyled coupe, with its available with headlamps featuring 71 LEDs that simulate natural daylight, shares engines, transmissions and other components with the E- and S- Class models to improve its profitability. Economically, it's a very interesting model, said Schmidt.

The CLS will face more competition in its second generation. Volkswagen AGs Audi unit will present the A7 in Paris this week. The four-door coupe will go on sale in Europe at the end of October. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG is planning a four-door version of the 6-Series coupe.

The drivers next year could very well be a recovery in Germany, stronger growth in the U.S. and a continuation of growth in China, said Jose Asumendi, an analyst at RBS, who recommends buying Daimler shares. He predicts a 5 percent increase in Mercedes sales volumes for 2011.

Mercedes-Benz plans to introduce a revamped version of the SLK hard-top roadster and an updated C-Class range, which will be expanded to add a coupe in 2011. Mercedes will roll out engines featuring a fuel-saving start-stop feature across most of its lineup and, toward the end of next year, intends to introduce new versions of the M-Class sport utility vehicle and B-Class compact.

Growth will probably continue in the U.S. as demand gradually recovers from the recession, while China will challenge the U.S. as Mercedes largest market outside Germany by 2015. It'll be a head-to-head race for the biggest Mercedes market outside Germany, Schmidt said.

Mercedes U.S. deliveries rose 11 percent to 144,300 cars and SUVs through the first eight months of 2010, while China sales more than doubled to 90,400. Worldwide deliveries of Mercedes vehicles, including the Smart city-car brand, rose 12 percent to 800,200 autos.

Daimler is targeting sales of 300,000 Mercedes-Benz passenger cars in China by 2015, when it expects to sell at least 1.5 million Mercedes brand vehicles globally, a 48 percent increase from 1 million sold last year.

"In 2015, we will have a lot of new cars that have no predecessor," Schmidt said in the interview last week.

Mercedes plans to double its lineup of small cars to four models from two and is building a factory in Hungary to add capacity for the new models.

Daimler, also the world's largest maker of heavy-duty trucks, in July increased its target for 2010 earnings before interest and taxes by half on stronger Mercedes profit.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100927/AUTO01/9270353/1148/auto01/Mercedes-forecasts-greater-demand#ixzz10joWDQ1j

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