Mercedes-Benz on a roll in India: registers 47 per cent growth in its best year yet

Reading about the perils of the American Big Three of Automobiles, one would undoubtedly feel it's a bad time to be in the business. That is, until one glances through the sales figures of Mercedes-Benz in India. Even as auto sales plummet worldwide, with even Indian companies witnessing a dimmer Diwali than usual, the German luxury carmaker is having its best year in 11 years of existence in India.

The company has notched up a whopping 47-per cent increase in sales till October this year as compared to the corresponding period in 2007. In terms of cars sold, 3141 vehicles have moved, against 2491 sold before October last year.

Out of the firm's total sales in India, the northern and western region amounted for 40 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, while the share of the country's southern part was assessed at 27 per cent, with the east contributing a mere 3 per cent. Mercedes-Benz is also seeing a larger market for commercial use of its cars in India. While such sales used to account for 2-3 per cent two years back, this year the company has seen it growing to 10 per cent.

All these figures were released to the press on Saturday by a delighted Mercedes-Benz India Director (sales and marketing) Sanjiv Sahajwala. He was in Kolkata on account of a two-day exhibition to roll out the AMG model and help build the brand in the Eastern region.

''There has been no slowdown in sales even in September when we sold 350 cars. We don't anticipate bad sales in the next two months as well. This is due to several measures taken to enhance sales,'' he said. These include providing one-year additional service warranty, a differential pricing scheme for bulk purchases and evolving the commercial market for Mercedes-Benz cars in India.

Ruling out any slump in the automobile sector in the wake of global economic slowdown, the director said the rising demand had necessitated the company to shift its plant from Chikhali to Chakan area in Pune by the first quarter of 2009.

''The plant at Chakan near Pune, sprawled over 100 acres, will command a capacity of 5,000 units per year, while our existing plant in Chikhali, with an output capacity of 3,000 vehicles per year, is built over a land area of 20 acres,'' he elaborated.

He also said that the weakening rupee against euro has increased the import costs for the company. ''The exchange rate is fluctuating as it's with the dollar. While components of S-Class, E-Class and C-Class cars are imported from Germany and assembled here, for most others it is imported as completely built units. We absorb most of these increased costs and pass on some to consumers. But we will not hike prices till December and review the situation next year,'' he asserted.