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Auto blogTue, 19 Feb 2013 17:59:00 EST
It turns out that Mercedes-Benz North America has legitimate claim to being the top selling luxury nameplate in the US in 2012.
While sources such as Autodata had put BMW in the top spot, registration data from R.L. Polk shows that Mercedes customers registering new vehicles topped the Bavarian automaker in the most recent calendar year. Polk says Benz posted 274,123 registrations, compared with BMW's 268,498.
In terms of sales posted, BMW had bested Benz 281,460 to 274,134. But sales are recorded somewhat inconsistently from automaker to automaker. Some book the sales as soon as they are shipped from factory to dealer. There is perennial gamesmanship between the two German rivals, and the sales numbers suggest that BMW pushed out some extra sheetmetal to dealers in the last four weeks of the year.
Some executives in the automotive industry stay with one company for their entire careers, while others bounce from one to the other, often leaving their indelible mark on each automaker at which they serve. Bob Lutz is certainly an example of the latter. So is Lee Iacocca, having presided over Ford and later charing the Chrysler board. Carlos Tavares was chief operating officer of Renault before being nominated as chief executive at PSA Peugeot Citroën. But as far as the Germans go, nobody's jumped from the leadership of one automaker to the next quite like Bernd Pischetsrieder - especially now that he's been named to the supervisory board of Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler.
An engineer by training, Pischetsrieder started his career at BMW in 1973, eventually rising to the office of CEO after twenty years. There he remained until 1999, only to be dismissed after orchestrating BMW's takeover of the Rover Group (of which only the Mini brand remains in the company's portfolio, the other brands having been sold off after his dismissal).
The next year he was named chairman of Volkswagen's Seat brand, and rose to the chairmanship of the entire Volkswagen Group two years later. Despite a largely successful four-year tenure (that gave birth, incidentally, to the Bugatti Veyron), disagreements with supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piëch saw him leave the helm at VW AG, focusing his attention on the Scania truck division. He's since been touted as a potential chief executive for Opel and for Continental, but neither potential was apparently realized.
Mercedes-Benz is preparing a major product offensive to counteract lagging sales in the Chinese market, aiming 20 new or updated models at the People's Republic in the next two years, according to a report by Reuters. The plan is part of MB's so-called 2020 Initiative, which will see the Stuttgart-based manufacturer dump 2 billion Euros ($2.67 billion) into its Chinese market vehicles in a bid to boost sales to 300,000 units by 2015.
Were it to succeed, China would become the largest market for the Silver Arrow, outpacing Germany and the United States. Leading the charge will be the redesigned E-Class, which is set to launch in China this week. That will quickly be followed by the S-Class, and eventually by the GLA-Class in 2014.
Mercedes has struggled in China, especially relative to its German competition, BMW and Audi. Where Mercedes saw a mere four-percent increase in 2012 sales to 206,150 units, Audi was up a staggering 32 percent, while BMW's numbers jumped 41 percent. While some voices, according to Reuters, accuse Munich and Ingolstadt of boosting their numbers through hefty incentives, the fact remains that Mercedes was just walloped by its competitors last year.