Mercedes-Benz is riding high
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The marque had a great 2016 and this year is also looking good
Mercedes-Benz New Zealand's general manager Ben Giffin has had a lot to celebrate recently -- including multiple car of the year awards for the E-Class sedan, being the top luxury car brand and now the 50th anniversary of the brand's performance arm, AMG.
Giffin talks to Driven about the success of 2016, Leadfoot Festival and expectations for this year.
How did AMG's involvement with the Leadfoot Festival come about?
Rod Millen introduced us to Leadfoot, and every year we've had a close association with the Goodwood Festival of Speed. We've been sitting on getting involved until we've had something to celebrate, and what better way to celebrate than 50 years of AMG. Rod is going to take an AMG GT S on two exhibition drives each day.
In the past few years, what sort of percentage of sales have been AMG?
Last year was the best year we've ever had (15 per cent), so we're building on strength to strength on our AMG brand. It's always been pretty high, 12-13 per cent... we can see that heading towards something in the [20s].
What model in the AMG range has been your top seller?
In 2016, the A45 - it's giving people the first taste of the AMG brand and it's not secret, we want customers to look at an A45, then a C63 or C43 then mid this year, when it arrives, maybe the E63. So we have the progression between the range now.
In the Mercedes-Benz passenger fleet, are the C-Class and GLC best sellers?
Definitely both of those. The GLC was only under 100 units less than C-Class, so it's really, really catching it. You don't have to be a genius to look at the signs and see that more and more SUVs are going to be sold in this market.
Are you still seeing customers coming from your sedans into your SUVs, or are they conquest customers?
It's quite broad now. We've got people coming out of GLE saying: "I don't need this size anymore but now you've got a mid-size SUV so I'll go into a GLC". We've certainly got people going from C-Class into GLC based on styling, but the traditional Kiwi will always go for our large SUVs and lot of it is still based on towing, so they'll definitely taking a diesel GLE or GLS.
The E-Class was a huge success for you, winning many awards including Driven Car of the Year. Were you surprised?
If we were going to win awards it was always going to be E-Class.
Were you surprised at how successful you were in 2016 with 2482 registrations, compared with BMW's 1864 and Audi's 1830?
Absolutely. There is a 33 per cent difference between BMW and us. It's difficult to know why but we have a very well thought-out plan each year; we've got our strategy and we don't tend to worry about our competitors a great deal, we just knuckle down.
What are your expectations for 2017?
I think it is going to be another good year for us. Our products are in a wonderful place, we don't have anything in our model range that we have an issue with.
The Mercedes-Benz ute is going to be phenomenal for you, so have you thought where you're going to be positioning it - in commercial dealerships, passenger vehicle dealerships or both?
With a vehicle like that, we have to be across all markets, so we're really just doing our due diligence and our research on where people are buying utes... I've spoken to customers who are like "I'm going to buy a ute and it's going to sit nicely next to my E-Class".