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Canada A Hotbed For Mercedes-Benz G, AMG Love

It seems fitting that in its 50th year in Canada, Mercedes-Benz surpassed 50,000 sales for the first time.

And while that is impressive, what excites president Brian Fulton even more is the number of AMG models sold in Canada.

“It’s the first time we have ever sold more than 10,000 AMG,” said Fulton, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Canada. “So (Canada is) the number four volume market for AMG, only behind China, U.S. and Germany, but number one in market share.”

AMG sales represent 22 percent of sales for Mercedes-Benz Canada, Fulton said. “The people in Affalterbach think Canada is pretty cool.”

Fulton was speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where Mercedes-Benz unveiled a redesigned 2019 G-Class, and a trio of AMG 53 models: the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, E-Class coupe and E-Class Cabriolet.

Those models, as well as the S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet, will arrive throughout the year, as will “a surprise” later this year, said Fulton, which he wouldn't discuss in detail.

But he did say he was looking forward to a new model coming late this year that could compete with the Porsche Panamera.

“If you know the AMG GT two-door, now we are going to come out with a four-door equivalent," Fulton said. It's a vehicle known unofficially by its internal X290 code, with the GT four-door reported earlier as producing over 800 hp. “I think that is going to turn a few heads.”

This year will see Mercedes-Benz get more SUVs to sell in the Canadian market, Fulton said. At the moment, Mercedes-Benz is one of the rare automakers that has an even split between SUV and passenger car sales.

“Even though the overall market is shifting to SUVs and light trucks, even in the luxury market, with us it’s at 50/50. Even though we have seen growth in our SUVs, it hasn’t been at the expense of passenger cars,” Fulton said.  

Passenger car sales for Mercedes-Benz were up seven per cent, despite the downward trend in the industry. However, SUV sales at Mercedes-Benz grew at a much faster 18 percent last year, Fulton said.

“If we could get more SUVs, would we be at 52, 53 percent? For sure,” he said, adding that the company has negotiated an increased supply of SUVs for 2018 from Germany.

“We wanted more (in 2017). This is all about consumer demand and dealer demand,” Fulton said. “You will start to see that pendulum swing a little bit, but it’s not going to be at the expense of passenger car sales.”

Fulton said that Mercedes-Benz Canada has also been able to secure an increased supply for the all-new G-Class when it arrives later this year.

In 2017, 639 super boxy G-Wagons were sold in Canada, a 44 per cent increase over 2016 when the total was 436.

“Here’s the deal with G,” Fulton said. “If we could get 1,000 more, we could sell them. It’s just one of those niche products. There’s something unique about the supply and demand with the G.”

He believes the new G-Class will spur growth in the segment when it goes on sale in June. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date, Mercedes-Benz said.

“It’s iconic,” Fulton said. “It is the flagship of our SUV lineup. We are excited about it.”

And as the industry trends toward alternative fuels, especially electric vehicles, Fulton said he wouldn’t be surprised to see an electric G-Class at some point in time.

By 2025, Mercedes-Benz has set a goal of becoming the luxury segment leader in terms of electric vehicles.

For the moment, however, the brand only has plug-in hybrid vehicles on sale in Canada. That includes the GLE 550 PHEV and the GLC 350 PHEV. They will soon be joined by the S 560 PHEV.

Near the end of 2019, Mercedes-Benz will offer its first battery electric vehicle, the EQC, Fulton said.

“By the end of 2022, there will be nine additional models, so we will have 10 fully electric vehicles in our Mercedes lineup,” Fulton said. Those new offerings will include SUVs and a fully electric AMG model, he said.

“Technology will cater to what our customers expect,” Fulton said about what to expect 25 years from now. “You will have fully autonomous vehicles and I think the landscape will certainly look a lot different than it does today.”