Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz is rolling out a revamped E-Class line as it tries to win back the U.S. luxury sales crown from BMW.
Daimler added more technology than would be typical for a mid-cycle refreshing of a vehicle line because it was available for the new S-Class, coming to the U.S. in September, and because the mid-size sedan segment is hotly competitive, Bart Herring, Mercedes-Benz USA’s general manager of product management, told reporters at a briefing in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The technology gave us an opportunity to go a step further, but we also know it’s a very competitive segment and you really have to be on the top of your game,” Herring said. Changes include technology for pedestrian safety, driver assistance to remain in lanes and warnings against drowsiness.
The revised E-Class is part of an effort by Daimler to bring out new and refreshed models and keep car factories open through the typical summer breaks this year as it tries to retake the top spot in global luxury sales by 2020.
Demand for the E-Class, on sale in the U.S. since April, has been outstripping dealer inventory, Herring said in an interview. The company, based in Stuttgart, Germany, also added an optional four-cylinder diesel engine, due in September, to compete with new diesel-burning powertrains for the BMW 5 Series and Volkswagen AG’s Audi A6 in the U.S. for the 2014 model year.
E-Class sedan sales fell 11 percent in May to 3,732 and deliveries for the first five months slid 4.8 percent to 17,305, according to Autodata Corp. Sales of BMW’s 5 Series sedan have dropped 33 percent to 3,902 and 3.7 percent to 20,675 so far this year, according to the Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based researcher.
To help stop a sales slump for the aging model, Daimler refreshed the E-Class, its second-best-selling vehicle line in the U.S. after the smaller C-Class, giving it a new front end, headlamps and a grille for the sport version, with the Mercedes star emblem integrated into the grille. Daimler also smoothed the hood and made it sleeker.
Daimler’s E-Class competes with the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus GS. The E-Class, including convertible, coupe and wagon editions, outsold the 5 Series in the U.S. last year by more than 8,300 deliveries.
The E-Class, starting at the $51,120 coupe, is Daimler’s most profitable line, Joachim Schmidt, Mercedes’s head of sales and marketing, has said. While the S-Class, which starts at $93,000, is Daimler’s most profitable vehicle, the E-Class outsold it more than fivefold last year. In addition to the new E-Class, this year Daimler is bringing a revamped version of its flagship S-Class sedan, as well as the CLA sedan, which goes on sale in September at $29,900.
In the U.S., Mercedes sales have gained 11 percent this year through May to 117,535 while BMW has gained 8.2 percent to 113,357. The results don’t include Daimler’s cargo vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.
Globally, Mercedes sales in the first five months of 2013 advanced 5.9 percent to 562,824 vehicles.