Daimler Relies on the CLA to Regain Place as Largest Luxury Automaker image

Daimler relies on the new CLA to get first place as the world’s largest luxury automaker.

Next week Mercedes will begin deliveries for the CLA, which is quite similar to the 190 sedan introduced in 1982, which helped the automaker attract wealthier buyers. The CLA was designed to increase the automaker’s appeal in other markets, especially Europe. Critics doubt the company will succeed with its plan, as the CLA is based on the same compact-car underpinnings used for the A- and B-Class hatchbacks, which until now failed to get Mercedes the desired crown.

“We want to beat the competition — on a permanent basis,” Zetsche said today at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Berlin. “The course we have set is the right one. We will follow it — undeterred by the ups and downs of the markets.”

Daimler is expected later this month to announce the updated 2013 target, as the beinning of this year was worse than expected, especially in Europe. Mercedes lost the crown to BMW in 2005 and the gap has widened as the A-Class failed to offset declines in China last year. During the first quarter Mercedes’ sales increased 3.5% to 324,898 units, while Audi increased 6.8% and BMW 7%.