Although Daimler AG reported its best profit margin since the merger with Chrysler five years ago, it still remains on the 3rd place among the German luxury-car makers. The owner of Mercedes-Benz is expected to present a 2011 operating margin of 8.3%, compared to GM’s 5% and Fiat’s 4%.
“The gap in Europe will widen to the advantage of the Germans this year, ” said Stefan Bauknecht, a Frankfurt-based fund manager with Deutsche Bank AG’s DWS. “Fiat and the French carmakers have the wrong products and the wrong market exposure and will be under pressure” from Asian manufacturers like Hyundai Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.
BMW, VW and Daimler managed to sell a record number of cars in 2011, expanding in China and benefiting from a rebound U.S. spending. The three companies rely on a growth faster than the global market in 2012, due to the updated models such as the Audi A3 compact, the BMW 3-Series sedan and the Mercedes SL roadster.
“The German automakers have higher structural margins because they’re in the premium segment and so have more pricing power than mass-market carmakers,” said Reto Hess, a Zurich- based analyst with Credit Suisse’s private banking unit. “That will remain the case this year.”