Mercedes is upending its business model and the first physical signs of the revolution are on display in Dublin. A new showroom format more akin to a hotel lobby than a traditional dealership is the physical manifestation of the revolution.
In essence, Mercedes is abandoning the volume markets in place of higher margin luxury. Comparing 2019 with 2026, the German car brand predicts a 25 per cent drop in sales of its entry segments as it ends certain models, zero growth in its major core market – models like the C-Class, E-Class and equivalent SUVs – but a 60 per cent growth in its top-end luxury sales.
The Mercedes strategy is no longer about letting the speed of the production line dictate the sales volume. Instead, it’s about margin and luxury.
To lure in the customers who will spend more cash, dealerships are being overhauled. It’s likely that dealer numbers will also fall in the coming years.
An example of the new showroom format is at MSL on Pottery Road, Deansgrange, Dublin. Centred around big screens and soft furnishings, the cars on display take a far less prominent role in the layout.
Coinciding with the new luxury approach is the arrival in Ireland of the new E-Class and CLE coupe.
The E-Class is an established best-seller for the brand here, and the latest model, which we test drove a few months ago, land in showrooms for 2024 sales.
Prices start at €80,525 for the E220d, €81,705 for the E300de plug-in hybrid with a range of 106km, and €115,425 for the E450d 4Matic. Petrol versions start at €79,785 for the plug-in hybrid E300e, €82,130 for the E200, and €122,015 for the E450 4Matic.
At the same time a new CLE coupe arrives, replacing not only the outgoing E-Class coupe but also the C-Class coupe as part of the drive to trim the range.
Bridging the gap for both sets of drivers will be no mean feat, and this car not only sounds the deathknell for the C-Class coupe, but it may also be the last new fully-fledged combustion engine model that Mercedes launches here.
From 2025 the luxury car brand says it will stop investing in combustion engines and by 2030 it will be an all-electric brand in Europe.
In terms of dimensions, the new coupe is more closely aligned to the outgoing E-Class, and a convertible will follow on next year. Prices start at €73,215 for the CLE 220d, €74,670 for the CLE 200, €89,545 for the CLE 300 4Matic, and €109,880 for the CLE 450 4Matic.
Meanwhile, MDL, the Irish distributor for Mercedes Benz - and owner of the MSL dealer group - is also expanding the footprint of the other car brand it handles, BYD.
The fast-growing Chinese brand currently sells from three outlets in Ireland: two in Dublin and one in Cork. Now two dealerships in the Bolands network is taking on the brand, at locations in Waterford and Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
MDL is also going to start retailing the new range of Smart cars at some of its Mercedes dealerships. Previously known for its quirky little city cars, the brand - a global join venture by Mercedes-Benz AG and Chinese firm Geely Automobiles - is rolling out a range of new models, starting with its Smart #1 and Smart #3.
The Smart and Byd model mix should offer MDL’s mainstream customers more options as Mercedes mover further up the luxury chain.