Few automakers have been looking to fill as many niches as Mercedes-Benz in recent years. In fact, the brand’s portfolio is now so crammed with different models that even Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche admits most niches have been filled.
When asked by Top Gear if the brand could eventually run out of ideas, Zetsche said that the brand’s range can be confusing but that as long as Mercedes continues to outsell BMW and Audi, it doesn’t matter.
“Of course, every new car we launch has some ‘substitution aspects’ to the existing portfolio. But typically we have a higher cannibalization impact on our competition, which is what we are aiming for!
“If you were in the times of Henry Ford, he would say ‘you can have all the versions you want as long as they are Model T’. We’re not in that world any more.
“There’s a level of fragmentation where even the customer might get confused, and you’re not adding value any more, and to find the right balance there is certainly not easy,” Zetsche admitted.
One way for Mercedes-Benz to avoid confusion between similar models, like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Mercedes-AMG GT four-door, is to venture into entirely new segments of the market. With the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, the company has done just that.
“More recently we have made some significant moves. Look at the X-Class, for example. Moving into pick-ups – that’s not just a minor niche, it’s a substantial move forward.
“There are not that many niches left to fill, of course. But, we stay creative and innovative. I can’t tell you what ideas we will have tomorrow. But we have a pretty full picture,” the chairman concluded.
As for where Mercedes will look to expand in the future, that remains unclear. Producing a high-performance AMG version of the X-Class is one possible move. Additionally, the Mercedes EQ brand is sure to open up a plethora of new opportunities for the automaker, including the already-confirmed electric crossover as well as numerous other passenger models.
If you thought the Mercedes range was already confusing, things won’t get any easier to understand.