Despite revenues rising by 2% to £147 billion in 2018, Mercedes-Benz's parent company reported net profits down 28% from £9.3bn to £6.7bn last year. Operating profit also dropped from £12.6bn to £9.8bn, while operating margins fell by more than 23% by the fourth quarter.
Speaking at the firm's annual press conference, Zetsche cited “strong headwinds”, such as trade disputes harming Chinese imports from the US, supply chain issues, problems caused by the new WLTP emissions legislation and greater raw material costs.
He claimed the trading environment “remains extremely challenging”, with raw material costs and exchange rate issues causing further concern.
When asked about the potential effects of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, Zetsche said: “Of course Brexit is one of the most important and crucial factors”.
“It could put the world economy into an uncertain situation”, he continued. “The UK is the world’s fourth biggest market for us, and if a no-deal Brexit became a reality, the market in Great Britain would be very much adversely affected. Foreign exchange relations would also become unfavourable. It’s a big part of our risk portfolio”.