R 230

Diskutiere R 230 im Smalltalk um den Mercedes Forum im Bereich Allgemeines; LONDON, Oct 9 - Mercedes' new SL luxury roadster, which goes on sale this month, has impressed journalists with its high-tech performance on roads...

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    LONDON, Oct 9 - Mercedes' new SL luxury roadster, which goes on sale this month, has impressed journalists with its high-tech performance on roads around Florence, but its sales performance may struggle to match the targets set by its parent, DaimlerChrysler <DCXGn.DE>.
    The SL, a direct descendent of the 1950's "gull-wing" model which had vertically opening doors hinged in the roof, will find market conditions increasingly fragile in its biggest market, the United States. Competition has got hotter, too, not least from Mercedes' own little SLK roadster.
    When the SL was unveiled in July, Juergen Hubbert, DaimlerChrysler board member responsible for Mercedes and Smart, said global annual sales of the new SL would be between 25,000 and 30,000, up from around 20,000 for the previous model.
    Al Bedwell, analyst with automotive researcher J.D.Power LMC, was less optimistic than Mercedes. He said unit sales were likely to fall between 24,000 and 25,000, an improvement on the old SL, but below the target range.
    Peter Schmidt, managing director of British newsletter Automotive Industry Data (AID), was still more cautious.
    "Twenty thousand (a year) will be difficult to achieve after the initial launch-inspired surge. Mercedes targets are not achievable because of fundamental changes in market conditions," he said.
    Since the car was unveiled in Hamburg on July 31, prospects for the U.S. and global markets have been clouded by the hijacked plane attacks in New York and Washington on September 11. Consumer confidence has been shaken, and stock markets battered, but a Mercedes spokesman said it stands by its targets.

    In the car's favour are an order backlog and technology-showcase components.
    The latest SL offers state-of-the-art technology to control suspension and is the first car with "drive-by-wire" braking, controlled electronically by cable rather than the traditional mechanical or hydraulic link.
    The SL has a folding steel roof, and Mercedes claims the car is therefore both a convertible and a coupe.
    And it has been a long time since the old SL was launched in 1989, so there will be a queue of SL-loyalists wanting to upgrade.
    "There are a lot of buyers waiting for a new SL...because the replacement was delayed for so long," said Hendrik Emrich, auto analyst with private Berenberg Bank of Hamburg, Germany.
    But there are many formidable rival vehicles vying for their attention.
    In July, Hubbert said that despite competition from cars like Toyota's <7203.T> Lexus SC 430, Porsche's <PSHG_p.F> Boxster and 911, and Ford's <F.N> Jaguar XK-8, the SL would be able to raise already fat margins by significant cost cuts.
    But AID's Schmidt said since the launch of the last SL, Mercedes had launched the smaller, cheaper SLK roadster, and it had supplanted the SL as the wealth-flaunter's vehicle of choice.
    Schmidt said the SL would also be under attack from above, with British superluxury car maker Bentley moving "downmarket", as well as more conventional competition from Porsche, Jaguar and BMW <BMWG.F>. Bentley is owned by Volkswagen <VOWG.F> of Germany.
    "Mercedes will be squeezed more than ever. In terms of profitability per unit, the next five to 10 years promises to be significantly leaner than Mercedes is accustomed to," Schmidt said.
    Berenberg's Emrich said profit margins on the SL would still be high, however, and slack demand from the U.S. would not necessarily spell failure for the sales and margin goals.
    "If there is a reluctance to buy in the U.S., demand could easily shift to European or Asian markets," he said.
    Deliveries of the new SL start in Europe this month. The first cars delivered will be V8 500 SL versions with prices starting at 81,000 euros ($73,900) before tax. Deliveries in the U.S. start in March 2002.
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