A forgotten feeling swept over Mercedes-Benz in July as its sales declined 7.9% globally.
In the grand scheme of a planet full of different tariffs and economies it should not be a surprise, but it follows up a 2.6% year-on-year decline in June.
The amazing thing about that was that June signalled the end of 63 months of consecutive growth for the premium and luxury brand. The last time Mercedes-Benz suffered a sales contraction, Barack Obama had just started his second term as US president.
While selling 1 356 350 cars and SUVs over the first seven months of 2018 is a new record for the German company and a 2.3% rise over 2017, there are significant signs that the days of easy growth are over.
Mercedes-Benz found a silver lining in the result, pointing out the sales figure was the second best July it had ever had.
It was clearly restrained by the rollouts of the new A- and C-Classes, while the race to fit a huge product line-up through the new WLTP emissions-test bottleneck has reduced availability of some models.
The C-Class was down 29% on last July’s highs, though both the S-Class and the SUVs rose around the world. Nevertheless, it retained its premium market leadership in countries like Australia, Germany, the US, Japan, South Korea and France.
“Never before have so many customers taken delivery of their new Mercedes-Benz in the first seven months of a year,” Daimler’s board member for Mercedes-Benz cars sales and marketing, Britta Seeger, said.
“Since the beginning of 2018, we have increased our unit sales by 2.3% to more than 1.35 million passenger cars sold. Since July, our new models of the C-Class family have been in the showrooms of the European dealerships, with whom we intend to continue the success story of our bestselling series.”
It also fell off significantly in SA, with its 1,404 passenger car sales in July down 21.70% on the 1,794 cars it sold in July 2017, while its 10,253 year-to-date sales were down 19.60% on the 12 749 it sold to the end of July last year.
Mercedes-Benz also suffered a significant decline in Europe, with the brand dropping 3.2% year on year and it was down 2.7% in Germany. It fell 19% in the Nafta region (the US, Canada and Mexico), even though its sales grew at double-digit rates in Mexico.
Its biggest global growth area was the Asia Pacific region, with 4.6% growth for the month and 11.4% for the year, with China leaping 8.3% for the month and 15.1% for the year. – Mark Smyth & Michael Taylor