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Interview with Mercedes sales manager Joachim Schmidt

Interview with Mercedes sales manager Joachim Schmidt
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Mr. Schmidt, recently the image of Mercedes was under great pressure. How do you want to change that?
Schmidt: This impression may have occurred briefly and exclusively in Germany, where we are viewed particularly critically. If you go abroad, the question does not arise who the premium brand is. For example, it is still called 'the Mercedes under the refrigerators '. We have the strongest brand in the premium segment - and we are doing everything we can to ensure that it stays that way. It starts with the products - and goes all the way to customer satisfaction. Today we are back at the top in many markets and we want to improve even further. We want 'the best or nothing' in all areas. That has always been our claim and it will be again in the future.

Will that also be your new brand claim?

Schmidt: O b we derive an external claim from this, it has not yet been decided. In any case, it is more important that all of our employees live this claim on a daily basis. However, we will make a decision on a claim for the public in the first half of 2010.

In a three-way battle with Audi and BMW, your competitors are daring more daring predictions. How do you react to that?
Schmidt: We are happy to take notice of Audi's challenge to become number one in the premium segment, but with a little composure: We are going away from, also in 2010 in the sales figures before Audi stay - especially thanks to the products we have in our quiver. In the next 24 months alone, we will be bringing 16 new and facelifted cars onto the market. Regardless of this, the number of pieces is not the most important thing for us.

To what extent?
Schmidt: If you look at the sales figures, you will see that we are still worlds apart from our competitor from Ingolstadt. This is mainly due to the fact that we are in our traditional core segments, the actual premium market - the C- , E- and S-Class - we are world leaders with our limousines. The best example is our current E-Class .

What are the numbers here?

Schmidt: In Europe we are in the E-Class sedan with around 40 percent segment share, in Germany is well ahead of our competitors with around 60 percent and are on par with the previous series.

Audi boss Stadler wants to crack one million in sales this year. What is the outlook for 2010 for you?
Schmidt: We posted 1.012 million units in sales of the Mercedes Benz brand last year and were thus able to assert ourselves successfully in a difficult environment - and are so self-confident that we want to grow in 2010 and gain market share.

How long do you then need the short-time working instrument?
Schmidt: In Sindelfingen we ended short-time working due to the positive development in the E- and S-Class and are currently even hiring temporary workers. We assume that more cars will be sold in 2010 than in 2009, among other things the full availability of the E-Class in all variants as well as new engines and a few facelifts will contribute. So we see a positive development at least in the passenger car segment, which is why we are confident that we can significantly reduce short-time working in the Group.

At the lower end of the model portfolio you will soon have nothing to oppose to the Audi A1. Do you want to face this?

Schmidt: We have great potential, especially in the compact segment, with Smart and the upcoming successors of the A- and B-Klasse . Besides, it's not about who has the smallest car, but the most efficient one. That is why we offer engines within our series that also meet stricter fuel consumption requirements without the customer having to forego the sovereignty of a real Mercedes. Our S 400 Hybrid is the world's lowest CO2 luxury sedan. And, at the end of 2010, for example, we will be introducing a four-cylinder diesel in the S-Class that will set standards in terms of consumption.

Do you actually see larger quantities there?

Schmidt: Yes, especially in Western Europe with countries that have CO2-based taxation, which puts larger vehicle classes at a severe disadvantage. And with smaller and more economical engines within a series, we can of course prevent customers from switching to a smaller series. Nevertheless, we will of course also in small andAccelerate compact car segments.

Schmidt: With four instead of just two variants as the successor to the A and B class. Whether one day there will also be a model from Mercedes-Benz in this segment cannot be said today. First of all, we want to expand the Smart portfolio.

How do you want to prevent the mistakes of the past with the Smart Forfour?

Schmidt: If we can Four-seater do what has not yet been finally decided, then we make it just as unique and attractive as the Smart Fortwo is. And we would build it together with a partner.

That was back then with Mitsubishi the same.
Schmidt: Right. This time, however, we are talking to many potential partners and will choose the one who ideally complements our conceptual ideas. And before you ask now, yes, we are also talking to Renault . By the way, the Smart Forfour wasn't bad and is now a sought-after and stable value used vehicle. His handicap was the cost price in a very price-sensitive segment.

And will you sell 150,000 Smart by 2015 - of the planned 1.5 million Mercedes Benz Cars?

Schmidt: We will be well over Sell ​​100,000 Smart.

How should the Mercedes series have to be below the A-class called?
Schmidt: We're creative there. Such a project would certainly not fail because of the naming.

But is there still enough space between the A-Class and a large, four-door Smart, which is also planned for the medium term?

Schmidt: That is exactly the question. The planned smart extension now has priority.

BMW is thinking of a single-track vehicle as part of its Project i, like the C1 scooter back then, VW has participated in Suzuki secured access to the know-how of a motorcycle division. Is Mercedes also open to such plans?
Schmidt: No, we are staying true to four wheels and see alternative drives as the solution. Here we have massive inConsumption-reducing and 'zero emission' technologies invested. And that is the right path for the mega-cities of the future. We are a leader here and we want to remain a leader. The trend towards alternative drives is as certain as the Amen in church.

But when it comes to CO2, BMW has left you behind.

Schmidt: The impression is deceptive. In 2009, just last year, we had average emissions of just 160 grams of CO2 per kilometer in Europe - 13 grams less than a year earlier. This makes us the premium manufacturer that has reduced its CO2 values ​​the fastest - thanks to our extensive technology offensive, which admittedly started later than at BMW, but all the more effectively. And it's far from over. This year, for example, we are also introducing new 6- and 8-cylinder engines and an economical automatic transmission that saves four to five grams of CO2. As mentioned, we are bringing our OM651 high-tech diesel, with four cylinders and twin turbo, to the S-Class with start-stop and top performance values. As you can see, the CO2 efforts continue. In 2012 we want to have less than 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

And for 2011 you come with the secret weapon, the E300 Bluetec Hybrid.

Schmidt: You will first find the combination of the clean and efficient diesel engine with a compact and powerful hybrid module at Mercedes-Benz. Our E-Class will once again become the technology leader and will certainly also set new standards in fuel consumption and sovereignty. We are clearly one step ahead of the German manufacturers when it comes to hybrids, and we will continue to expand this lead.

You will be showing the extended E-Class at the Beijing Motor Show in April. Will we see even more examples in the future of Mercedes models being adapted to local needs?
Schmidt: Let yourself be surprised. In any case, we will play to the strengths of our portfolio and regional strategy where it makes sense.

What does the future of Maybach look like - beyond the slight facelift?

Schmidt: Maybach we will continue to maintain. A second Maybach model ....

A Baby Maybach on an extended S-Class platform?

Schmidt: ... is From today's perspective, this is not a priority.

Let's finally turn to the subject of trade: VW wants to reduce its dealer network in Germany. How does it look at Mercedes?
Schmidt: We have been developing our sales network for years in line with market developments and today we have just under 100 representatives and 34 of our own branches a total of approx. 760 car sales and service locations in Germany. Together with theWe are therefore already well positioned for the future at the locations of our service partners. Of course, there will also be minor network changes in the future. We also have a structure that is adapted to the sales potential worldwide.

Are you planning to expand your dealer network in China?

Schmidt: Yes, our sales network there currently comprises around 130 dealers and is to be expanded this year.

How high are the global investments in your dealer network?

Schmidt: Our goal is it is to have the best dealers with a sustainable and profitable business model. We are a reliable partner here, even in difficult times. The subject of customer satisfaction in our retail is also very important to us: We want to do everything we can to completely satisfy our customers in sales and aftersales. And we have made great progress there, which was also shown not least by the auto motor und sport workshop test. In the last few years we have improved our customer satisfaction in numerous markets around the world and are at the forefront here.

Final question: Germany was your world's largest single market in 2009 with 298,000 units, followed by the USA with 205,200 units and Italy with 83,300 units. It stays in this order ..
Schmidt: This year it stays that way. The USA will tend to catch up. China, our fifth largest market in 2009, will also continue to grow, but for the time being it will remain a long way from the two largest markets in terms of numbers. And Germany - our home market - will remain our backbone in the long term.


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