ATLANTA -- Four months after a redesigned Mercedes-Benz E class arrived in U.S. dealerships, sales are up and incentives are down for the sedan. Dealers say inventories and customer demand generally have been good.
"Every indication we have is the car is well received," Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler told Automotive News last month. "Customers who drive it, love it -- whether it's the big screens on the inside, all the new technology, the auxiliary autonomous driving features that make the car so much safer."
Through September, E-class sales are down 3.8 percent from the year-earlier period. But sales rose in both August and September by double-digit percentages. Exler said he expects similar monthly increases through the remainder of the year. The redesigned E300 models began arriving in U.S. dealerships in late June.
With the new model increasing demand, incentives have fallen. Mercedes spent an average $8,259 on incentives per E class to start the year, according to TrueCar, and the figure climbed to a high of $11,209 in May as the brand worked to sell down the outgoing model. For August and September, the average incentive dropped under $6,000, coming in at $5,830 last month, TrueCar data shows.
Mercedes aims to regain segment leadership with the redesigned E-class sedan. In January, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche said that he expects the E class to reclaim the top spot from the Lexus ES. The E class outsold the Lexus ES in September, but the ES still holds a considerable lead in the segment for the year so far.
Ed Collinet, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Des Moines, said his store has good inventory levels now.
"The car is selling well," Collinet said.
Asbury Automotive Group Inc. COO David Hult said the redesigned E class is helping the group's luxury sales. While Asbury would like more E-class inventory for its Mercedes stores, supplies are adequate and better than what Hult expected at this point in the launch.
"We've certainly benefited since it's been launched," Hult said. "We're pretty happy with it."
Another dealer who declined to be named said that while the launch is going well, the E class hasn't been the blockbuster it has been in the past when a redesigned version came out. He attributed that to the market's shift toward SUVs.
Some customers and dealers have reported significant waits getting their E classes equipped with the top-of-the-line Premium 3, or P3, package, which includes the brand's most advanced available semiautonomous driving features and head-up display.
Michael Pacifico, a longtime Mercedes customer in Las Vegas, said he tried to order a P3-equipped E300 early this summer. After being told there was a problem with availability for the head-up display, he eventually was able to order the car with delivery slated for January. In consideration for that long wait, Pacifico said, he received a "nice discount, rare with a Mercedes."
Exler said he couldn't comment on the situation with the head-up display but noted that Mercedes has experienced capacity constraints at the supplier level that has limited the availability of some features. He called that "unsatisfactory" and said it leaves "untouched opportunities in the market" but that it's a better problem to have than weak demand.
Mercedes-Benz of Des Moines has had some customers waiting for vehicles with the P3 package, Collinet said. The dealership has been able to work with Mercedes-Benz to extend leases on their current vehicles. Other customers have chosen to buy an E series without the P3 package.
"Typically, they're pretty understanding," Collinet said.