Mercedes' strong Chinese showing was not enough to avert steep January fall in sales

Alex Daniel
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The luxury car maker bucked the global trend of falling demand in China (Source: Getty)

Mercedes-Benz deliveries dropped sharply in January, but still made for the firm’s second-best ever start to a year after a record beginning for 2018.

The luxury car maker said although sales dropped 6.7 per cent on the previous month to 180,539 units, an upcoming new model offensive would make 2019 another record year.

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Figures were buoyed by a 4.8 per cent rise in Chinese sales, bucking a global trend of falling demand in the country. Overall Chinese car sales fell by about six percent in 2018 and Goldman Sachs is predicting a bigger decline in 2019.

China has long played a key role in growing profits for global manufacturers, many of whom have struggled to turn a profit in recent months as sales in the country drop. Rival German manufacturer Volkswagen said last month China’s ongoing trade war with the US hit its sales in there last year.

Mercedes bested its own Chinese record, however, breaking the 70,000 unit barrier for the first time ever for car sales in one month.

Daimler, Mercedes' parent company, last week revealed tumbling profits last year, warning “difficult political and economic conditions” but maintaining demand for its vehicles remains strong.

Britta Seeger, who oversees the Mercedes brand for Daimler, said: “2019 will be a challenging year for the entire industry. But we expect to inspire our customers with new models – especially in the second half of the year – and therefore aim to achieve a slight increase in unit sales and a new record in the full year.”

“With more than 180,000 vehicles delivered, Mercedes-Benz has started the year 2019 with the second-best January ever. Last month was below the strong figure for the previous year; this was in line with our expectations, however, due to important model changes.

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Sales in Europe dropped 11.2 per cent with 57,963 vehicles delivered, a statistic that offered little surprise after business for European car manufacturers dropped for the fourth month in a row in December. Meanwhile in the Americas, the firm sold 26,068 vehicles, down 11.5 per cent.