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Thu 11 Mar 2004 04:00 AM

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DaimlerChrysler stakes its claim

It was a challenging year, but DaimlerChrysler claims its Mercedes-Benz marque is still the top luxury car brand in the region.

DaimlerChrysler Middle East saw sales of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars fall in 2003, but claimed that it’s still the luxury car brand to beat. The German auto giant decided not to disclose the exact unit sales figure, but said that its flagship brand still managed to beat its sales target.

“Despite the level of instability in the region and a slight downturn in the luxury car market, we more than held our own with our Mercedes-Benz brand and landed 3% over an already ambitious target,” said Nicholas Speeks, DaimlerChrysler’s regional president and CEO.

“Although Mercedes-Benz passenger cars sales were in total slightly down from a 2002 sales figure of 11,345, we remain the region’s leading luxury car brand.”

Overall, 2003 appears to have been a mixed bag for DaimlerChrysler Middle East. Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge sales fell 10% year on year to 5,500 units.

However, commercial vehicle sales grew 23% year on year to reach 6,200 units. Bus sales were also strong, growing 30% year on year to reach 727 units.

The introduction of the Maybach, a half a million dollar car with a run of only 1,000 units annually, was also deemed a success. The company managed to move over 100 in the region.

Looking ahead, Speeks believes 2004 will be a challenging year, particularly with the strong Euro. For the moment, the company is absorbing the high value of the Euro itself by billing dealers in dollars at a Euro/dollar rate fixed by the company.

New launches this year include the next generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the SLK sports car. Chrysler and Dodge will introduce the Dodge Durango at the end of the first quarter and a luxury sedan, the 300 C, in the second half.

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