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Mercedes to import superior models

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, MAY 12. Following the removal of quantitative restrictions, Mercedes-Benz India has initiated steps to clear roadblocks to introduce in the domestic market superior model cars through imports.

Indications are that the first lot of imported cars will hit the Indian roads in the third quarter of this year.

According to Mr. Jurgen Ziegler, Managing Director of the company, Mercedes-Benz had applied for `homologation'. This was a `huge exercise', he admitted.

In his reckoning this would take 3-4 months to complete.

To a query he hinted that Mercedes-Benz would import low volume superior models such as M, SLK and CLK.

Imports, in any case, would be in the vicinity of 100 cars, he said.

Addressing a press conference on the eve of the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class here today, Mr. Ziegler said the company had set a sales target of 800 cars for the current year.

It had set a sales target of 450 cars for E-Class and 70-80 cars for S-Class. In the first four months, it has sold 42 S-Class cars and 150 E-Class cars.

To a question, Mr. Ziegler said Chennai contributed to 10 per cent of the company's sales.

The Managing Director also informed that corporates accounted for a quarter of its clients.

Though the Pune plant has a capacity to make 1,500 cars, it is technically designed to go up to 9,000. The company had already turned black, he pointed out.

Asserting that Mercedes-Benz had laid much store by service, the Managing Director said the Indian subsidiary had positioned German service specialists in strategic locations like Bombay, Pune and Chennai to ensure quality service was available.

DaimlerChrysler, he said, had 10 per cent stake in Hyundai Motor of Korea and 37 per cent in Mitsubishi. He admitted that Mercedes-Benz was looking at using the service network of Mitsubishi. He, nevertheless, hastened to add that ``it cannot happen overnight''. And, this required matching beef up in infrastructure, he said.

To a query, Mr. Ziegler said nearly 50 per cent of the components were sourced from domestic module suppliers.

It had 20 joint ventures running with Indian firms, he said. In the last three years, exports through these JVs totalled DM 200 million.

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