The head of marketing and sales for Mercedes-Benz, Britta Seeger, says new product is more important than ever before, but needed to be backed by strong marketing, dealer performance, and aftersales success. Above all, though, is the brand's premium status.
“Since 2011 when we started the 2020 Programme, one strong aspect was the product platform,” Seeger said, speaking with Australian media at the New York motor show. “We are about to launch even more products - many more products actually - and we truly believe this is very important on a continuous basis.”
Seeger went on to explain that the key to success globally was building a strong spirit, and a strong link between head office and the various dealers around the world.
“The key strength is that we concentrate on strong relationships with our dealers,” Seeger said. “There are many aspects that lead to success. One is the product from headquarters, - we need to make sure we have the right products, within international sales and marketing. We need the right dealer performance and sales, and aftersales for the future is a key point. It’s not just product but every aspect.”
While Mercedes-Benz has continued on its roll of releasing more new product seemingly every few months, the German marque has shown that it can - and will - remove product from the line-up if it isn’t working.
“Currently we have a very good line-up, and that is an ongoing thing that we have to do,” Seeger said. “Does this mean we have to fill every niche in the market? We go into areas where we believe we will find customers.
"In the product offensive, we look at opportunities, but we have also dropped the R-Class in the past, so it is a natural thing to look where the potential for sales is. It’s an evolving process.”
Seeger is more aware than most that the aforementioned owner experience after purchase is also crucial to the premium expectation of the buyer. “We can always do better,” Seeger said.
“It is a very competitive industry, but we can always do better. The customers want us to offer more, a better dealer experience, this is one thing that will help the brand in the future. We have to offer services, but offer them seamlessly. For all of us in the industry, this is important.”
A crucial aspect of that product offensive will be the role SUVs take in a world where demand for traditional passenger vehicles is dropping more rapidly every year. Seeger isn’t so sure the sedan is dead just yet though, despite the surging popularity of SUVs around the world.
“There is a very strong SUV trend in the USA, for example,” Seeger said. “There’s a change in customer’s perceptions regarding passenger cars - sedans, for example. We don’t take them out of the market, but we reposition them to go forward. We have to decide this market-by-market, because they are all different.”
Seeger explained that a large chunk of the SUV’s initial popularity was related to buyers wanting to be different and thus opting for an alternative to the traditional family sedan or wagon.
“It’s certainly not the utility of the vehicle,” Seeger said in relation to few owners using them in the manner in which they were intended. She went on to explain that it follows logically that there may at some point, be a return back to traditional sedans and wagons. If that happens, Mercedes-Benz will be ready.
“It is for sure though, part of our strategy to remain premium,” Seeger said. “We were able to rejuvenate our brand with compact cars and you shouldn’t be too distinctive as a brand just with SUVs for example.”
The success of the brand in Australia isn’t overlooked by head office either.
“Australia seems to be very far away, but it is a very important market for us and in some ways it is a pilot for many things, as well as being very, very active,” Seeger said.
“Not so much a pilot for models, more about the sales and marketing, what you are doing - the company did a tremendous job down there, a very good performance.”