Jan. 14 - Europe's luxury car makers like Mercedes and BMW are scoring high on innovation, design and fuel efficiency as they look to grab larger global market share but Asian car makers look to the future. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Global demand for luxury cars is expected to remain on the fast track in 2014 after jumping 14 percent in 2013, and that puts the Europeans squarely in the driver's seat, judging from what's on the floor at the Detroit Auto Show, says AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson. SOUNDBITE: MIKE JACKSON, CEO, AUTONATION (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I expect the premium market to grow faster than the overall volume market. And if you look at the premium market you got to tip your hat to the Germans, whether for your taste it's BMW or Mercedes or Porsche or Audi -the cadence of new innovative products whether it's from fuel efficiency to performance - is remarkable. Their investment in research and development is staggering because these are global brands." BMW is putting the new 2 series on the road as it tries to fight off competition in the affordable luxury car market, hoping to rebound from the lackluster debut of the 1, which won't be back in the U.S. Adding to the need for speed- and higher sales - the German automaker is updating its M series with the M3 and the M4. Carson Pries of BMW: SOUNDBITE: CARSON PRIES, HEAD OF PRODUCT MANAGEMENT, BMW (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think we've seen steady growth and I obviously in the high performance segment where we from BMW M Power are part of it is very much supply driven, so whenever new models come into the market, normally the sales go up. And we expect the same for M3 and the M4." Industry leader Mercedes-Benz is taking direct aim at BMW's popular 3-series with a refreshed version of the Mercedes C-Class, made of aluminum- a trend at this year's auto show. Mercedes has its eye on the aspirational buyer in the U.S., Europe, and especially China, says Mercedes Head Dieter Zetsche. SOUNDBITE: DIETER ZETSCHE, CEO OF DAIMLER/HEAD OF MERCEDES (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The Chinese market has shown spectacular growth rates during the recent years. We expect this year to be again in the low but two digit growth area, which off course makes this largest market further attractive." But while the Europeans are in the lead, don't count out Asian manufacturers like Toyota and Lexus. SOUNDBITE: MIKE JACKSON, CEO, AUTONATION (ENGLISH) SAYING: "If you look at the overall market, its 45 percent Americans, 45 percent with the Asians and 10 percent with the Europeans and I don't expect much change with that overall." Toyota is looking to send a message that fast and sleek can come from Asian shores with its Toyota FT-1 concept car, aimed at younger car buyers. And its luxury brand Lexus is not far behind - shaking things up with the RC F high-performance coupe as the industry bets on fast cars to keep a global revival at full throttle.