Mercedes Sets Up New Sales-Support Unit for China Market

Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz set up a new sales-support unit for China and will step up the pace of dealership openings this year in the world’s biggest car market in a bid to catch rivals.

Sales Management China, based at Daimler’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, will coordinate marketing, sales and training initiatives in China to support the local sales organization, the company said today in a statement. Mercedes will also add 75 new stores this year, including 36 in cities where the brand hasn’t been present before.

“We have taken numerous measures for our Chinese business in the past six months, and we’re keeping our foot on the gas,” Hubertus Troska, who runs Daimler’s China operations, said in the statement.

Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche’s plan to retake the top spot in the luxury-car industry has been hobbled by a disjointed strategy in China. Two competing sales organizations were merged in December, while Troska was appointed to the management board to oversee the efforts. The expansion of sales activities in China is aimed at supporting the introduction of about 20 new or upgraded models there by 2015.

The reorganization has shown signs of helping. Mercedes sales in China rose 6.5 percent in May to narrow the decline through the first five months to 4 percent. Still, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s deliveries climbed 15 percent in May and sales of Volkswagen AG’s Audi, China’s best-selling luxury brand, jumped 16 percent.

Mercedes hired Benjamin Auer, a former sales manager for Audi in China, to lead the new sales-support unit, which started operating this month, according to Daimler.

The 75 new China dealers in 2013 outpaces the average growth of 50 sales outlets a year, Daimler said. Mercedes had 260 stores in China at the end of 2012, trailing the more than 300 at BMW and Audi. Mercedes will also have seven training centers in China, including the largest outside Germany, after opening a planned facility in Shanghai.

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