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Mercedes Bets on the Middle Kingdom

Chinese momentum “tremendous,” says CEO Zetsche.

by on Apr.18, 2011

Daimler is preparing to launch production of the Mercedes-Benz GLK at its Chinese assembly plant.

When Daimler AG’s shareholders quizzed Deiter Zetsche’s plans for the future he basically summed it up with one word – China.

The booming Asian nation now dominates Daimler’s strategic thinking, which is why it’s no surprise that Zetsche will travel to Shanghai this week to unveil the next version of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class at the Shanghai Auto Show. (With a second prototype getting a follow-up introduction days later at the New York Auto Show.)

In addition, Daimler plans to double the size its new joint-venture plant in Beijing to build 300,000 vehicles annually by 2014-2015, mostly for China’s internal market — though some of the multiple models slated for assembly at the plant could be exported.

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“The momentum of that market is tremendous. As recently as 2008, the ‘Middle Empire’ was number seven on the list of Mercedes-Benz most important market,” Zetsche told Daimler’s shareholders.  Now, “When someone in the auto industry mentions growth, within three sentences the talk will likely be about China.”