Investors currently value BMW at approximately twice the amount of what Mercedes-Benz's car business is worth. BMW's market capitalization has risen to 45 billion euros ($58.8 billion) compared to 42.2 billion for Daimler. But, take away a reasonable estimated price for Daimler's truck business and that the market cap figure drops to 25 billion euros for Mercedes' passenger car business.
"The market is saying that the prospects for Mercedes are much worse than for BMW," said Hans-Peter Wodniok, an analyst with Fairesearch in Kronberg, Germany. "The market's always right. In terms of innovation, BMW is the leader." "The market's confidence in Daimler management is pretty much at rock bottom," said Max Warburton, a Bernstein analyst in Singapore. "Investors have little or no confidence that current management will be able to do what is necessary to close the gap to BMW."
What's the reason for Mercedes' dim prospects? Lagging growth in China, sluggish expansion into popular segments like compact sport-utility vehicles, and an image that lacks appeal for younger drivers have hindered the Mercedes brand, allowing the BMW and Audi brands to widen their sales lead in the luxury segment. The growing gap comes a year after Zetsche, whose current contract expires at the end of 2013, vowed to almost double deliveries to 2.6 million vehicles by the end of the decade and regain the top spot, which Mercedes ceded in 2005.
BMW's surge has overturned the historical pecking order in the German auto industry. Daimler, which tried to take over BMW in 1960, had a market capitalization 15.5 billion euros higher than BMW's just two years ago.