Mercedes must turn around China operations to catch BMW, CEO says image

Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche said the Mercedes-Benz brand must fix its struggling Chinese operations to catch rivals BMW and Audi.

“We have to fix China. And that’s what we’re doing,” Zetsche was quoted as saying by Bloomberg at the North American International Motor Show in Detroit. Daimler, the owner of the Mercedes-Benz brand, is negotiating its rôle in a possible initial public offering by Chinese partner Beijing Automotive Group, Zetsche said, without giving details. He denied Daimler talks with China’s sovereign-wealth fund to buy a stake in the automaker.

Zetsche is determined to reclaim the top spot Mercedes lost to BMW in 2005 by the end of the decade at the latest. Audi, No. 2 in global luxury sales since 2011, has the same target. Last year, Mercedes-Benz’s sales fell further behind BMW and Audi as the Stuttgart-based automaker grew more slowly in China than its two main rivals.

To fix its Chinese operations, Daimler has named Hubertus Troska to its board with responsibility for China and is combining its separate sales organizations in the country for imported and locally produced cars into one entity. “We have to give the new people a chance, This is a good starting point,” Zetsche said.