Cutting ties with China is ‘unthinkable’, Mercedes-Benz CEO tells Bild am Sonntag

FRANKFURT, April 30 (Reuters) – Cutting economic ties with China is unrealistic, the chief executive of luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz (MBGn.DE) told tabloid newspaper Bild am Sonntag, and said attempting to do so would put most of Germany’s industry at risk.

Europe is trying to reduce its dependency on China as the disruption of the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis have highlighted the dangers of relying on dominant suppliers and the fragility of supply chains.

But Ola Kaellenius said decoupling from China, the world’s second largest economy, was “unthinkable for almost all of German industry”.

“The major players in the global economy, Europe, the U.S. and China, are so closely intertwined that decoupling from China makes no sense,” he was quoted as saying.

German carmakers depend on the Chinese car market, the world’s largest, and Mercedes-Benz counts China’s Beijing Automotive Group Co Ltd (1958.HK) and Geely Chairman Li Shufu as its two top shareholders.

China accounted for 18% of revenues and 37% of car sales at Mercedes-Benz in 2022 and Kaellenius predicted more to come.

“Our sales figures in China are increasing and I am quite optimistic that we will also grow this year. During the corona years, the wealthier Chinese in particular made extraordinary savings,” Kaellenius said. “This purchasing power should benefit us.”

Reporting by Christoph Steitz; editing by Barbara Lewis