Daim­ler com­mer­cial vans' US sales to match 2009 de­liv­er­ies

The Pak Banker - - Company& -

DETROIT: Daim­ler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, pre­dicts U.S. sales of its com­mer­cial vans this year will match 2009 de­liv­er­ies af­ter dis­tri­bu­tion was shifted to lux­ury re­tail­ers from truck-savvy Dodge deal­ers.

Sprinter's U.S. sales through Novem­ber at Mercedes and Freight­liner deal­er­ships fell a com­bined 8.1 per­cent com­pared with the same pe­riod last year at Dodge and Freight­liner stores, ac­cord­ing to Au­to­data Corp., a Wood­cliff Lake, New Jersey­based re­searcher.

"We will get there," Claus Tritt, Mercedes com­mer­cial vans gen­eral man­ager, said last week about 2010 sales equal­ing the pre­vi­ous year's to­tal. "It's com­ing to­gether," he added in the tele­phone in­ter­view.

U.S. Mercedes deal­ers sold 3,917 Sprinter vans dur­ing the first 11 months while de­liv­er­ies by Freight­liner out­lets more than tripled to 3,263. A year ear­lier, more than 300 Dodge deal­ers ac­counted for 87 per­cent of the 7,817 sold.

A to­tal of 8,353 Sprinter vans were sold last year through Dodge and Freight­liner stores in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to Mercedes, part of Stuttgart, Ger­many-based Daim­ler.

Tritt over­saw the tran­si­tion of mov­ing Sprinter sales to Mercedes deal­ers from the Dodge out­lets that had sold the trucks since 2003. The Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep brands were part of Daim­lerChrysler AG un­til it sold the Auburn Hills, Michi­gan-base Chrysler Group in 2007. Fiat SpA took con­trol of the group last year and split off Ram trucks as a brand sep­a­rate from Dodge.

Mercedes deal­ers are re­quired to have a sep­a­rate dis­play area for the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle and to pro­vide those cus­tomers with ded­i­cated tech­ni­cians and sales staff, Tritt said.

While Sprinter sales at Mercedes deal­er­ships started slowly, they have grown to about two-thirds of monthly Sprinter vol­ume, Ernst Lieb, head of Mercedes' U.S. unit, said in an in­ter­view at the Los An­ge­les Auto Show last month.

Most of the new Sprinter deal­ers went out and hired a sales force with ex­pe­ri­ence in com­mer­cial-ve­hi­cle sales, Lieb said.

"The tra­di­tional Mercedes-Benz lux­ury sales­man is not the right guy," he said. "We might have the cus­tomer, the owner of the land­scap­ing com­pany or the owner of the ho­tel who now is in­ter­ested, but to sell the ac­tual unit" needs a trained sales per­son.

Daim­ler added 12 cents, or 0.2 per­cent, to 51.44 eu­ros at 10:01 a.m. on the Frank­furt ex­change. The shares have gained 38 per­cent this year.

Daim­ler be­gan sell­ing Sprinter vans in the U.S. in 2001 at its Freight­liner deal­er­ships, which con­tinue to sell the ve­hi­cles. Daim­ler has 84 Mercedes and 49 Freight­liner stores sell­ing the vans.

Even­tu­ally, Daim­ler wants 180 to 200 Mercedes and Freight­liner deal­er­ships sell­ing and ser­vic­ing Sprinter vans, Tritt said. Mercedes has 352 U.S. deal­ers, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany.

While Daim­ler has done a good job keep­ing sales through the dis­tri­bu­tion changes, its over­all place in the full-sized van mar­ket re­mains small, Aaron Brag­man, an in­dus­try an­a­lyst with IHS Au­to­mo­tive, said in an in­ter­view Dec. 20.

More than 170,000 full­size vans were sold in the U.S. so far this year, he said. Ford Mo­tor Co.'s Econo­line Van sold 76,051 units this year, ac­cord­ing to Au­to­data.

Bernie Moreno, a Mercedes dealer near Cleve­land, said van sales at his deal­er­ship, which sold about 60 Sprint­ers, met his ex­pec­ta­tions for the year and that he is still "play­ing around with the right for­mula for sell­ing them."

"The sales part of it is def­i­nitely a dif­fer­ent model," he said. "It's not the cus­tomer who comes in with their wife and looks at an SL-500 and de­cides this is the car for them and drives off. We're not get­ting a lot of peo­ple who are buy­ing Sprint­ers for Christ­mas."-Cour­tesy Bloomberg

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