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Daimler has opened a research and development center in Beijing tasked with further tuning its Mercedes-Benz brand to wealthy Chinese tastes and closing the sales gap with Audi and BMW brand.
Mercedes's China sales rose 30.5 percent to 203,485 in the first nine months, trailing BMW, which sold 335,863, a rise of 18 percent. Sales of luxury market leader Audi rose 16 percent to 415,704 in the same period.
The automaker's move to build the center demonstrates a desire to "embed us more deeply in China, to make cars best suited to China," Hubertus Troska, Daimler's China head, told Reuters.
The new r&d center signals commitment to a market Troska said would become Mercedes's largest in as early as one or two years. With that in mind, the automaker plans to raise the number of Mercedes engineers and other specialists in Beijing to 500 by the end of next year from 350. "It is a logical step to better understand the market and make sure Chinese requirements are properly regarded early in the process when we develop a next generation of cars," Troska said in an interview last week.
The r&d center caps a series of moves Troska has made since becoming China head in 2012, including reforming marketing and sales and raising dealer numbers. Its focus on Chinese tastes should help Mercedes catch up in the local luxury car segment with Audi and BMW, he said.
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