Mercedes-Benz is rapidly bolstering and refreshing its India line-up, with the company determined to launch as many as 15 new products in 2021. The German marque is also doubling down on its SUV range, which is reflected in the recent debut of the second-gen GLA on one end, and the flagship Maybach GLS on the other. The increasing focus on SUVs is helping open up the brand to a younger audience, says Mercedes. “The new (set of) customers are all coming into SUVs, whereas the traditional luxury customers still prefer sedans,” Santosh Iyer, vice president, sales and marketing, Mercedes-Benz India, told Autocar India in an interview.
Average age of a Maybach GLS SUV buyer is 40-45 years
Younger buyers prefer SUVs while traditional customers go with sedans
Maybach draws in a new set of customers with the GLS 600 4MATIC
Mercedes Maybach now has an SUV in India. Introduced at an ex-showroom price of Rs 2.43 crore, the GLS 600 4MATIC is attracting a class of customers very different from the typical Maybach (S-Class sedan) buyer. “Traditionally, the profile of customers which we have got for the S-Class Maybach consists of leaders of big business houses,” said Iyer. He mentioned that industry tycoons generally upgrade their Maybach sedans every time a new model is introduced. However, the Maybach GLS SUV is appealing to a whole different class of India’s elite.
“For the GLS Maybach, we see a big affinity, right from Bollywood to cricket and sports, with a lot of young guys. I think it’s just because of the SUV and Maybach combination. So it’s definitely not the S-Class Maybach set of customers. It’s a very different profile with different needs.”
He added, “For us, what’s also a revelation is that the average age (of the buyer) is around 40-45 years for such an expensive car, because when you look at an on-road price, the Rs 2.43 crore translates to Rs 3 crore, with registration and insurance. So the GLS Maybach is a high ticket car.”
Iyer mentioned that all of the 50+ units of the super-luxury SUV, which were pre-specced by Mercedes and imported into the country, have already been spoken for. He added that another set of customers is already configuring cars for delivery next year.
“When you configure the GLS Maybach, the car can go up to Rs 4 crore, with all the options and equipment available.” “So now, we have also seen traction that people want to configure to the best dual tones, with all the bells and whistles, even if the car price touches Rs 3.5-4 crore. So the demand is strong,” he said.
While Mercedes seems excited to cater to a new demographic of the country’s ultra-rich, it will continue bringing in products for its core customer base as well. For starters, the carmaker is set to launch the next-gen S-Class on June 17. The new Maybach S-Class is also expected to make its India debut in the coming months, with the S580 even slated to be assembled at the company’s Chakan plant near Pune.
Mercedes sees strong demand for SUVs
Though sedans still account for a significant portion of Mercedes’ volumes in India, it too has been swept by a strong surge in demand for SUVs. Iyer commented that while sedan sales continue to expand, “from a point of view of sheer percentage growth, SUVs are significantly higher.”
Leading the SUV charge are the GLC and GLE. The GLS is also said to have been received well. And now the automaker has added the new GLA as the entry point to its SUV portfolio.
Still, the sedan line-up remains critical to the company’s India operations. For reference, of the 3,193 cars it sold in Q1 2021, 53 percent were sedans. “So when I look at our strong sedan products, the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class are the three strong mainstays. And we now have the A-Class that we launched recently,” mentioned Iyer.
“The E-Class has never shown a dip in demand, it grows year-on-year and continues to really surprise all of us with absolute domination in the segment,” he said. For reference, every third Mercedes sold in the country is an E-Class.
“Then comes the S-Class – it’s a life cycle product. So the moment the new car comes in, we see a huge uptick.” Providing an insight about the remaining strong sellers, Iyer added, “With the A-Class, we are selling off all the cars that we are producing, so it’s completely hand-to-mouth right now. And when you look at the C-Class, we were stocked out pre-pandemic, and now, we have restarted but will only be able to deliver some of these cars by July-August this year.”
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