Mercedes-Benz continues to lag behind the race to become the best-selling luxury car maker in the world in 2012, latest sales figures show. For the first nine months of 2012, Mercedes delivered 964,900 cars and sport-utility vehicles worldwide, equivalent to a 5-percent year-on-year increase. However, Mercedes failed to narrow the sales gap between the carmaker and rivals Audi and BMW. As of the end of September 2012, current no. 1 BMW had a sales lead of around 145,000 vehicles, while current runner-up Audi had a sales lead of around 132,600 units. The growing gap between Mercedes and its rivals could be attributed to a fragment strategy in China, slow expansion of entry-level models as well as an aging S-class sedan.
The current situation further dims the full-year target of Mercedes chief executive Dieter Zetsche to regain the much-coveted best-seller crown. Christian Ludwig, an analyst with Bankhaus Lampe in Dusseldorf, remarked that Mercedes' problems are home-made problems and it would be hard for the carmaker to claim the no. 1 spot since its rivals are working hard as well. In September 2011, Zetsche made it a goal for Mercedes to become the best-selling and most profitable luxury-car brand by 2020.
At the time, Mercedes’ CEO said it was "impossible" for the brand to accept being third. A year later, Zetsche has yet to achieve that goal. He even disclosed in September 2012 that Mercedes car division’s earnings before interest and taxes would drop and fail to match the full-year figure in 2011. In response, Mercedes is planning a savings program dubbed "Fit for Leadership." At the Paris auto show in September, Zetsche didn't reaffirm a Mercedes's target for a 2013 operating profit of 10 percent of sales.