Mercedes-Benz could increase vehicle sales in 2017, says the leader of the Mercedes-Benz Dealer Board. But getting more trucks to dealership lots will be a major requirement of any gains to be made.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll have some incremental sales gain in 2017," said Ken Schnitzer, the dealer board chairman. "I'm not making any predictions."
But to help make an increase happen, dealers are pushing Mercedes-Benz to increase allocation of SUVs and crossovers to the U.S. in 2017. More trucks, combined with a better economy and a full year of the redesigned E-class sedan, should make the difference, said Schnitzer, chairman of Park Place Dealerships, based in Dallas. He owns four Park Place Motorcars Mercedes-Benz stores in Dallas, Grapevine, Fort Worth and Arlington.
Though it just regained the U.S. luxury sales crown in 2016, Mercedes posted a slight decrease in overall luxury sales last year. The brand's luxury sales fell 0.8 percent to 340,237 vehicles. The drop came after a long run of annual sales increases for the brand dating to the Great Recession.
Mercedes had a big swing in its truck and car sales last year. U.S. sales of the car lines dropped 11 percent, while sales of its SUVs and crossovers jumped 15 percent.
"We would have liked to have had a lot more SUVs to sell," Schnitzer said.
Mercedes did a "great job" in 2016 shifting output of cars to trucks and increasing allocation of SUVs to the U.S., Schnitzer said. But demand for SUVs is still outstripping supply, he said. The shortages are across the truck lineup, though Schnitzer called out the new GLC compact crossover as being a key need.
Dealers have asked for another increase in truck allocations in 2017.
"These vehicles have been well received all over the world, so we're hopeful they'll be able to meet some increased demands," Schnitzer said. "But we really won't know that until the first quarter."