European sales of the Mercedes-Benz B class have been on the decline for years. In 2012, Mercedes sold more than 120,000 units of the premium compact minivan. Last year the B class's volume dipped to little more than 62,000. Despite the slump, Mercedes sales boss Britta Seeger says the B class will be replaced. She explained why in an interview with Automotive News Europe Associate Publisher and Editor Luca Ciferri.
The new family of Mercedes compact models will expand to nine derivatives from six now. Do you still see room for a compact minivan such as the slow-selling B class?
The B class is part of a significant and promising segment so we will replace it. In our new compact family we will also bring seven-seat vehicles to market. We see a growing desire for seven-seat vehicles in China and we must satisfy this demand. Will it be a minivan or an SUV? You will have to wait and see. So far you have seen the first new model, the A class, which is really a lovely car and a very substantial product.
Will the EQ compact EV be part of the new A- and B-class family?
No. Battery-powered vehicles will be purpose-built models that all belong to the EQ family.
Sales of the B class have dwindled in the past few years.
Regulators all over the world are pushing for lower emissions, which will lead to various electrification solutions being added to most if not all vehicles. At the same time, your AMG high-performance division and your rival, BMW M, both achieved record sales last year. Is it fair to say that no matter what regulators demand, affluent people will still want to have powerful, gas guzzling cars?
They love high-performance cars. Therefore, we have to offer a variety of products to satisfy these very different needs. If you look back at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, we unveiled a high-performance car, the (Formula One-derived) Project One, and the urban, full-electric, fully autonomous Vision EQ concept. Where was the crowd at our stand? Around the Project One. Nevertheless, by 2025 between 15 percent and 25 percent of our products will be electrified. Time and consumers will tell us which percentage will be full-electric, plug-in hybrid, 48-volt hybrid, gasoline and diesel. Right now, we honestly do not know.
Does diesel have a future?
We are very satisfied with our diesel engines and our diesel sales. Last year we saw some ups and downs in some individual markets, such as Germany and the UK, but overall our share of diesel sales on a global basis was only marginally down – less than 1 percent. Nevertheless, as our volume went up, our diesel sales were higher than the previous year.