The expansion of Mercedes-Benz model offerings would enable the third-largest maker of luxury cars to beat competitors’ sales growth and increase operating profit “significantly” this year, Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche said yesterday.

“Our determination is paying off,” Zetsche said at the annual shareholders meeting.

The manufacturer was “seeking to gain new customers by entering new segments for Mercedes-Benz”.

Zetsche has vowed that the Mercedes brand will overtake BMW and Audi in premium-car deliveries by the end of the decade with 30 new models, including a dozen with no predecessor. Mercedes would show a sport-utility vehicle coupé prototype at a motor show in Beijing this month, Zetsche said. He said in February that the company planned to build a sports car.

BMW, which first sold more vehicles than Mercedes in 2005 to gain the global premium-car industry crown, is working to protect its lead, targeting 2 million group deliveries this year. Volkswagen’s Audi division, which has held second place since passing Mercedes in in 2011, has also laid out plans to lead the field by 2020.

“Daimler has woken up and shed its old-man’s image,” Ingo Speich, a portfolio manager at Union Investment, said at the meeting. “The design and features of the new models are also well received by younger customers.” – Bloomberg