Chrysler Crossfire, Mercedes-Benz CLK Cabriolet, Smart Roadster, Mitsubishi Outlander … DaimlerChrysler South Africa is concentrating on products and customer satisfaction for 2003.

Chrysler Crossfire, Mercedes-Benz CLK Cabriolet, Smart Roadster, Mitsubishi Outlander … DaimlerChrysler South Africa is concentrating on products and customer satisfaction for 2003.

DCSA reported on Thursday that it had exceeded its targets for 2002, increasing its turnover by R6,5 billion to a record R20,4 billion. The company sold a total of 42 700 vehicles and had a record production of 56 000 vehicles. Mercedes-Benz sold 21 857 units in 2002, but Fritz van Olst, management board member for sales and market, said they expect this to drop to 17 926 in 2003.

He said the total South African vehicle market should decline by 3,1 per cent to 325 000 units in 2003 from last year’s 335 352 units. He also said the passenger car market was expected to decline by 2,9 per cent to 225 000.

But DCSA intends bringing in a number of products. First up is the Mercedes-Benz ML350 and CLK55 AMG in March, and CLK Cabriolet 320 and 500 in August. The super luxurious Maybach is due in December or January next year and likely to be priced at about R3 million.

Chrysler will launch the much-hyped Crossfire in September and Mitsubishi is bringing in the Outlander in September.

DCSA will introduce the little Smart in City coupé and cabriolet form in July. They will be followed in December by the smart Roadster and Roadster coupé.

“Five dealers have been approved to sell the Smart. It is a niche market product, but we want good penetration in this market and will be bringing in as many products as we can. It’s aimed at a very discerning buyer who wants something different.

“For this year we aim to sell 1 000 units, but hope to see in our three to five-year plan sales reaching 2 5000 and upwards a year. We looking at fairly good volume out of our four-door model next year,” he said.

Van Olst said it was important to improve its customer satisfaction rating. Chrysler topped the passenger vehicle sales segment with 91 per cent. The customer satisfaction survey is conducted by Proactive Insight.

He said the key pillar to customer satisfaction was its new dealer network strategy. The company restructured its dealer network last year.

DCSA's new vertical integration strategy involves changes of ownership, realigning franchise territories and a single brand ownership concept in metropolitan markets. This means separate passenger vehicle dealerships for Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler and Mitsubishi cars in metropolitan areas, but a multi-franchise approach in country markets.

“Customers want a separation of the brands. A bakkie showroom is completely different to a luxury car showroom. The customer wants to be in a comfortable environment. It’s about efficiency and effectiveness,” he said.

Van Olst said DCSA was finalising the alignment of ownership of the dealers “We have completed 12 dealerships and have a few more to go. The next big phase is the completion of the new facilities this will take us through to 2005,” he said. The first two remodelled showrooms are in Port Shepstone and Paarden Eiland.