Despite the last generation SL's disappointing sales.
One of this year's most anticipated new models was the all-new Mercedes-AMG SL. With its sportier styling, improved performance, and high-tech interior, we think the all-new drop-top is a spectacular return to glory after the last-generation SL was overshadowed by the AMG GT. However, when you look at the last SL's dismal sales numbers, you wouldn't blame Mercedes for killing it off.
In its heyday back in the early 2000s, Mercedes was regularly selling around 13,000 SLs every year. But times have changed. Sports cars sales have declined while SUV and crossover sales continue to grow year on year. By contrast, Mercedes only sold 1,300 SLs last year. Speaking with Car and Driver, Michael Knoller, global head of marketing and sales for Mercedes-AMG, acknowledged that increasing demand for SUVs was partially to blame for the SL's declining sales.
Knoller added that Mercedes' oversaturated model range also affected the SL's sales. “When you look at the US market, I think you have to include, in addition to the core segment, we've offered the S-Class coupe and cabriolet, and the Mercedes-AMG GT roadster,” he said. To simplify the model lineup, the AMG GT Roadster is being discontinued and replaced by the new SL.
The last-generation SL also faced stiff competition from the Lexus LC, which is on track to sell around 3,000 units this year. An industry analyst added that many people who would normally buy a Mercedes SL now consider buying a Tesla instead.
So why did Mercedes renew the SL? Because it’s an important part of the brand’s heritage dating back to the original and iconic SL from the 1950s. “For us, it is important to have this SL in our product portfolio because, brand-wise, it’s one of the icons since the 1950s,” said Knoller. “Every decade there is an SL that reflects the lifestyle of the time period.” The SL also has a loyal customer base that Mercedes doesn’t want to alienate and attracts customers with above average incomes.
And while other manufacturers have abandoned the segment, Mercedes sees the luxury coupe as a halo car for the brand. “The visibility of a coupe is far greater than the market volume would suggest in part because the loyalty of coupe owners make them really effective brand ambassadors,” said Todd Blickenstaff, Lexus product marketing manager. Knoller concluded that roadsters appeal to customers who “just want to have fun with their friends” and that the SL can “give them goosebumps in those moments.”