Mercedes-Benz unveiled photos and details of its new SLR McLaren Roadster. This ultra-luxury GT car will carry on the fight in the uber-exotic niche started by the coupe a few years back.
I could chat forever about the important history of the SLR, or maybe about how I love that this supercar is now to be offered in a form to benefit those like me who require our sports cars to accommodate open air driving…but there’s something more important to discuss regarding the SLR.
What is most striking is not its amazing performance, no-cost-spared technology, wild looks, or even promised ease of use. Despite spending so much time, money and effort creating this halo vehicle (as well as other image cars, such as the AMG sedans,) Mercedes hasn’t taken its eye off its bread and butter.
In fact, 2007 is a record sales year in America for M-B. Compare this to Ford and GM, which have both been on downward sales spirals despite a focus on small-market image and halo cars in recent years. In fact, I’ve argued before that the domestics seem to spend so much time on image cars like the Ford GT, Mustang GT500, Corvette Z06, XLR-V, STS-V, CTS-V, and SSR, it has in part helped prevent success in important core money-earning segments.
Mercedes sold almost 21,612 vehicles in America in March, which was up about one percent from 2006. On the year, M-B has been up over nine percent over 2006. Other luxury players BMW and Audi have recognized similar gains, while German entry-level player Volkswagen has seen sales declines throughout the year. (Rabbit? Beetle? Okay, I won’t rant again on the value of retro!)
Back to halo and image cars… they’re nice, but they aren’t substitutes for valuable products across the line. GM and Ford (and Dodge, for that matter) have little ability to demonstrate that the technology and style of the halos are trickling-down through the rest of the product range. And let’s face it, the lack of quality luxury cars in GM and Ford portfolio is killing them. With the average price of domestic vehicles over $30,000, consumers are obviously exhibiting more price elasticity than any executive expected, because these buyers are deciding that a luxury sedan, coupe, wagon or crossover is a better value than anything the domestics have to offer.
After all, if you’re considering a $50,000 Denali or Suburban, wouldn’t you really rather get a BMW or Mercedes? More comfortable, higher snob appeal, better acceleration, handling and fuel consumption…people are seeing the obvious winner of the value equation more frequently than Michigan-based brand managers care to admit.
So not only is it nice to see another supercar from M-B, it’s also nice to know that the company has products hitting on all cylinders throughout its line…especially in that entry-level luxury space, where it, along with Audi and BMW, continues to clean Ford and GM’s clocks.