Marque’s rev­enue, car sales on the up

Mercedes-Benz SA and its other Daim­ler com­pa­nies had a good year in 2014, writes Mark Smyth

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

MERCEDES-Benz SA set it­self a goal “to be the undis­puted mar­ket leader in 2015”, said its CEO Arno van der Merwe at a me­dia brief­ing to an­nounce its re­sults. It is a goal that it clearly set its mind to be­cause it achieved the num­ber one po­si­tion in the pre­mium pas­sen­ger car mar­ket a year early in 2014.

“Last year was a year in which we wowed the mar­ket with prod­uct, labour and industrial re­la­tions,” said Van der Merwe. How­ever, it was also a year in which the com­pany stopped re­port­ing its sales fig­ures to the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers of SA (Naamsa). Ex­ec­u­tives at the brief­ing re­fused to be drawn on the mat­ter in spite of be­ing bom­barded with ques­tions from var­i­ous mem­bers of the me­dia. In­stead, the mat­ter was sidestepped with the re­sponse be­ing “we are not legally re­quired to do so”.

The com­pany says that it is sup­ply­ing its fig­ures to the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try rather than Naamsa, and that it is wait­ing for a pro­posal from the depart­ment on how the in­dus­try should re­port its fig­ures. It is a sit­u­a­tion that does not sit well with the rest of the in­dus­try, with many re­fer­ring to it as an­ti­com­pet­i­tive.

The com­pany did have a good year in 2014 though with rev­enue up 5%. While pas­sen­ger car sales rose for the brand in con­trast to a de­clin­ing mar­ket, the com­pany saw its truck sales drop. Ac­cord­ing to chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Her­bert Werner this was “mainly due to the ex­change rate. To tackle the im­pact we in­creased prices sig­nif­i­cantly.”

The com­pany also faced labour is­sues in a year when it launched the new C-Class which it builds for the lo­cal mar­ket and for ex­port.

To re­cover af­ter the pro­tracted strikes, the com­pany has now im­ple­mented a per­ma­nent third shift at its East Lon­don plant. The com­pany also in­vested more than R41m in train­ing and was re­warded when the plant re­ceived its sixth con­sec­u­tive JD Power and As­so­ciates Qual­ity Award.

Also, 2014 was the best year yet for its fi­nan­cial ser­vices di­vi­sion, but one of the big­gest sur­prises was that it was a great year for its per­for­mance car. Sales of the per­for­mance AMG mod­els rose by a huge 63% to 1,604 units, en­sur­ing SA re­tains its po­si­tion as one of the big­gest AMG mar­kets in the world. This year it will also open a new AMG Driv­ing Academy at premises be­ing built at the Zwartkops Race­way near Pre­to­ria.

For 2015 the com­pany is ex­pect­ing and plan­ning for lower profit but sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness growth, ac­cord­ing to Werner. It will in­crease its C-Class pro­duc­tion and will also in­tro­duce a num­ber of new prod­ucts in­clud­ing a plug-in hy­brid ver­sion of its luxury S-Class. For now it is avoid­ing the elec­tric ve­hi­cle route be­ing taken by BMW.

This year it will launch its com­pressed nat­u­ral gas buses in SA as well as launch­ing the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of its popular Ac­tros truck range which has been ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated by the mar­ket.

Mercedes-Benz SA CEO Arno van der Merwe.

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