These things are all relative of course – Mercedes is still a massive force in the car industry. But declining growth figures have forced executives to rethink their strategy.
Falling behind their German rivals can be attributed largely to Audi and BMW being quicker to move into the lucrative SUV market, and into China.
And it seems that executives at Daimler-Benz have been spooked into action by statistics which in fact tell us something that we already know.
In the US the average age of Mercedes customers is 54, which is much older than those at BMW (49) and Audi (48). As a result of this Mercedes have decided that they need to deliver younger customers to the brand.
Executives have decided to pump a whopping 1.4 billion Euros into building new car plants. The B-Class, which will be produced in these factories, is, from some angles at least, a very beautiful small car.
But doesn’t Mercedes risk alienating its core customer group by getting all funky?
Jürgen Hubbert, former head of Mercedes, says: ‘If we had just listened to the traditionalists, we would just be an E- and S-Class company and probably the 15th brand of another group.’
Some brand traits however seem to be iron-cast. For most aspirational drivers Mercedes seem to somewhere down the line, something which doesn’t even come into focus until you are in your fifties.
They make supercars for teenage boys to drool over, of course. But these are not real world cars. And whilst they add value, as all supercars add value by association, they don’t really make a company any money.
Contrast the image of Mercedes with that of Audi, whose design tropes seem to appeal to the quietly confident consumer. Or in the case of their new Audi RS4 Avant, an appeal is made to the false modesty of a certain sort of very rich younger person.
Mercedes will be hoping that their new adventures in the field of newer cars might eventually deliver them some of what is still a growing luxury car market.