For the fourth consecutive year, Mercedes-Benz Canada Inc. was Canada’s top luxury manufacturer with record breaking sales of 52,298 passenger vehicles, vans, and smart automobiles in 2017. That final number crushed 2016 sales of 48,320 units sold by 8.2 percent!
No matter how you slice it, those are spectacular results, so naturally it was an effusive Brian D. Fulton, president and CEO of Mercedes Benz Canada that we spoke with while at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.
“It’s a credit to our customers who continue to believe in the Mercedes-Benz brand and our exciting product lineup,” stated Mr. Fulton, “We have an incredible dealer network who continue to focus on delivering a great customer experience whether it’s on the showroom floor or in the service department. We also continue to work very closely with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services to ensure we are delivering the products and services that resonate with our customers!”
“We were also pleased to see our SUV sales increase by just over 17 percent over last year. Our passenger car sales also increased by more than 7 percent and, for the very first time, AMG (the performance division of Mercedes-Benz) sales topped 10,000 units—10,124 to be exact!”
“In fact, with sales up in both passenger vehicles and SUVs, we did not experience the same trend across the automotive industry. Our passenger car performance was even slightly ahead of our SUV sales by just over 100 units! Our single biggest seller was the C-Class sedan with almost 11,000 units sold. Sales for E-Class were also very strong.”
“Truth is, we can sell as many SUVs as Germany allocates. Every year we work very closely with Stuttgart to bring more to Canada. We have been fortunate to receive a healthy increase in SUV allocation the past few years. No doubt we could certainly sell more, the demand is definitely there!”
“For 2018 our plan calls for even more SUVs to make it to these shores—so we expect the difference between both categories to grow—all while general sales for our brand rises.”
“Plus, Canada can lay claim to being the fourth largest market for Mercedes-Benz in the world—and AMG, number one vis-à-vis overall market share.”
Success is never taken lightly or viewed with any hint of complacency and Mr. Fulton’s attitude reflects that.
The discussion moved toward alternate fuel sources, specifically electric and battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV). Mercedes-Benz corporate chief executive, Dieter Zetsche has said that Mercedes will offer electric versions of every single car it makes by 2022—that translates to about 50 unique models.
Mr. Fulton continued, “In Q4 2019, we will introduce our very first BEV, a Mercedes-Benz GLC with an expected range of 300 kilometres. By 2022, we anticipate that to increase to 450-500 kilometres and we anticipate having as many as 10 different BEV models in Canada. This country is considered an adopter of low or zero emission options and we intend being able to provide our customers with the choices they seek.”
Parent company Daimler has committed an investment of 10 billion euros in developing its electrification and has also stated that Tuscaloosa in Alabama will see a $1Bio investment as Mercedes-Benz builds a dedicated battery plant there.
Further, Mr. Fulton expects over time that the price gap between conventional internal combustion vehicles and EVs to drastically reduce, thus making better economic sense regardless of the province where an EV is purchased. While provincial government incentives have been helpful, they are only available in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.
Regardless, that still leaves the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room. Infrastructure. While many more charging locations are accessible, they are not yet as ubiquitous as gasoline stations. While some companies have made significant contributions to creating better EV-type networks, in some parts of Canada, purchasing a BEV is not a practical decision. Range anxiety is often still a reality. Mr. Fulton admits that this is what slows down “converting” more drivers to a low emission solution. Some retailers provide charging facilities outside their place of business. Watch a movie, enjoy a meal, and recharge your automobile! Nowadays, it is not unusual to be required to pay in some places for a boost. Makes sense. You do not drive into your local Shell, gas up and drive off without paying. Mr. Fulton also believes that some, not all, gas stations off our highways may offer an EV charging station. But then, we have a different issue. Currently, pun intended, coupling devices are not, as yet standard, so there is the danger of something resembling the Beta/VHS situation of 20 plus years ago. Common standards are absolutely required.
Did you know that located in Burnaby, British Columbia since 2012, is the Fuel Cell Division of Mercedes-Benz Canada (MBFC)? It builds the Cell Stacks and has been developing the production operations required for its assembly. MBFC is focused on improving its manufacturing processes to achieve target costs and enable the launch of the next Fuel Cell Car Series by Daimler. In fact, a hydrogen-powered GLC was unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in late 2017.
Always on the leading edge of innovation and technology, Mercedes-Benz shows no sign of slowing down, and Mr. Fulton and his dedicated Canadian team, look forward with eager anticipation.
David Taylor is an independent automotive lifestyle writer, producer, and editor based in Barrie, Ontario who is fascinated by innovation and technology which enhance the overall driving experience. He’s also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) and a Director of the Canadian Car of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @Omemeeozzie or on Instagram @hugoscaroftheweek.