As the world’s largest car market, China is continuing to dictate the future success and planning of new vehicles from nearly all manufacturers, including the likes of Mercedes-Benz, which admits it has to cater to Chinese taste.
Speaking to the media at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas today, the chief designer for Mercedes-Benz, Gordon Wagner, said that the next S-Class will bring about a new generation of exterior and interior design.
But whilst it continues to offer the best of aesthetic analogue systems the model is historically renown for, it also must offer the absolute best in digital technology to cater to its biggest markets, including China, Japan and South Korea.
“[The new S-Class will have] the best analogue features you can imagine but there is a very different customer for the S-Class. We have markets like Japan and Korea which is the third- and second-best selling, they are very conservative and older people. And [then] China, which is our biggest market, the average buyer age [of an S-Class] is 37 years old and for a third of them, it’s actually the first car they buy!”
According to Wagner, the Chinese market demands extreme levels of digitisation and the absolute latest technology from their cars, meaning the S-Class has to deliver on all fronts. It will come with the next-generation of the brand’s recently launched MBUX infotainment system, dubbed MBUX 2.0.
Above: The Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept was inspired by Chinese tastes
“Of course they are totally tech orientated - for the Chinese the car is more of a rolling game console than a car, you drive in Beijing and you will know why.”
Either way, Wagner claims the new S-Class will help reset the benchmark for interior design, and that whilst it has to cater to consumer tastes it is “not looking at markets, we do what we think is right”.
Meanwhile, models such a smaller convertible have been ruled out simply due to a lack of interest in markets such as China.
“These days whether you do a global car, if you can’t sell in China... [it won’t be feasible]. You have to generate numbers and these cars don’t generate enough numbers globally.”
But it may not just be Chinese taste killing convertibles, Wagner reckons they are no longer perceived as being ‘cool’.
“People have moved away from open cars, they want to have SUVs, it’s cool it’s trendy. It’s actually not so cool to drive open cars. I love open cars, but it’s more in the top segment and it works there and i think it will always work, but not in the bottom segment,” he added.