Published on March 6th, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Mercedes Chasing BMW’s Crown On Its 100th Birthday
As BMW prepares to celebrate its 100th birthday next week on the 7th of March in Munich, Mercedes-Benz is out to spoil the party. Mercedes has its best shot yet this year to reclaim the luxury-car crown that BMW has held for a decade, a triumph that highlights the challenge facing BMW to re-energize the brand. The company did not bring any new models to this week’s Geneva auto show, in contrast to Daimler, who showed its Mercedes E-class sedan to European audiences for the first time, alongside a C-class convertible.
After filling all the niches from the 1-series compact to the 7 series, BMW’s pipeline looks thin. CEO Harald Krueger, in the job for almost a year, so far hasn’t laid out a strategy that can capture the imagination of customers and investors. By contrast, his counterpart at Daimler, Dieter Zetsche, has rejuvenated the fleet, pushed into segments that BMW previously dominated and boosted sales aggressively in markets such as China, where BMW’s growth has slowed to a trickle.
It’s a turning of the tables: Just a few years ago, Mercedes appeared to have lost its way, Zetsche’s tenure was being questioned and then-BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer had bragging rights with a carbon-fiber-framed i8 sports car that got a cameo in a “Mission: Impossible” movie.
BMW’s latest car highlights the challenges facing Krueger. Introduced just a few months ago, the 7 series hasn’t made a notable dent in the lead commanded by Daimler’s S-Class for top-of-the-line luxury sedans. BMW’s sales of its model were fewer than half the 8,500 that Daimler delivered in January.
Making matters even tougher, Mercedes has differentiated its S-Class by introducing convertible (pictured below), coupe and shooting-brake variants.
Falling behind Mercedes, the luxury-car industry’s current No. 2, would cast a shadow over plans to celebrate BMW’s 100th anniversary alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel on March 7 in Munich. It also makes for a tough start for Krueger, who took charge in May. A notable sales lift won’t come soon.
The next generation of BMW’s 5-series sedan isn’t due before 2017, and the best-selling 3 series may come in 2018. And Audi is also keeping up the pressure with new and refreshed SUVs, including the subcompact Q2 and an electric crossover, due in 2018, to challenge BMW’s ”i” line.