LEISURE & ENTERTAINMENT | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Mercedes-Benz stands out as the epitome of luxury automobile

Like the fact that over 1.56M customers took delivery of a Mercedes-Benz car around the globe in 2013, many car hunters in Hong Kong seem to find the lure of Mercedes-Benz irresistible. The Stuttgart-based manufacturer shipped 6,095 units of passenger cars to customers in the SARs of Hong Kong and Macau in the same year, representing an increase of 16.8 percent compared to the year before. The year 2013 was a record sales year for the brand, noted President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Andreas Binder.

The executive recently spoke to Hong Kong Business. This past year is widely estimated by those close to the company to be another record-breaking year as far as sales volume is concerned.

The brand has regularly been among the top luxury car brands on the local sales chart. It is in fact among the most popular brands in the territory, although it’s not operating in the same markets as some more mainstream brands.

With more customers comes the pressure on logistics and other customer services. A pleasant challenge many business owners would no doubt embrace, but nevertheless a range of reinforcement procedures has apparently kept Binder and his team occupied.

According to Binder, the company is monitoring a few areas where it can improve its services to customers. “We’re making significant investment to make sure that in future there will be enough facilities for customers.”

Neither will customers have to wait too long for a new car, Binder assures. First customers of the new Mercedes-AMG GT in Hong Kong, for example, will get delivery of the right-hand drive two-seater performance car priced at HK$2M up in the second quarter of the year (2015), just “weeks after the first customers in Germany do with their left-hand drive version.”

Hong Kong is an important market for brands in Asia, Binder points out, as tens of millions of visitors come to the territory each year. Having worked for Mercedes-Benz in the territories of Indo-China, Singapore, Vietnam and Central Europe, from finding himself awed in a new culture to building a production and marketing infrastructure in a new market for the brand, Binder has under his belt ample experience in the region.

“Asian people seem to have very positive associations with the three-pointed star. They admire and understand the heritage of the brand, which has [almost] 130 years of history,” said the executive.

In order to reinforce the brand’s position in local markets, Binder thinks it’s important to continue to invest in the brand and stay one step ahead of the competition. The recent launch of the new Mercedes-Benz CLS allows the public a glimpse of the brand’s new communication direction.

Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong organised the new CLS launch and automotive design exhibition at the PMQ Square in Central last November. In addition to showcasing the advanced technologies employed in the sleek coupe (a 5-door ‘shooting brake’ wagon-like version is to complement the range), the organiser arranged an exhibition featuring a roster of Mercedes-Benz concept cars that dates back to as early as 1901, as well as different stages of the C-Class and S-Class models.

The exhibition was open to the public for two days following private viewings reserved for the media. Compared to what the public is used to as far as car launches are concerned, such as displaying a few units in a prime shopping mall and getting shifts of sales persons ready to take in orders, the exhibition represented a different theme and a different idea to showcase the brand. “There is a big fight among all the luxury brands for high-end clients.

Doing the same thing as others is not going to work,” emphasised Binder. “We know there is a huge number of followers of the brand, they love our vintage cars and our design philosophy. The exhibition at the launch ceremony was a platform [on which] people could talk more about our brand.”
Despite being a well-known and revered automotive brand, Mercedes-Benz has busied itself attracting a new and younger generation of customers. Mercedes-Benz knows that the new models have to be able to connect with the younger generation. “That’s why we have a new generation of compact cars going in a new direction,” Binder referred to the models introduced over the recent months such as the CLA- and GLA-Class.

“We’ve put everything into the new generation of compact cars, which come with the same safety standards and technology as in other more upscale models. They also sport very young and dynamic designs,” he added.

Mercedes-Benz is synonymous with premium class automobiles, but in reality it has also long supported the younger generations who are not its target group of customers just yet. An example is that the brand has been recognising up-and-coming designers in various countries, while it has also put in place programmes around the world for a sustainable environment and community.

“Brand building is not only being a sponsor of high profile events,” added Binder. “We like to do something to the local environment and the local society.”

In Hong Kong, for example, the brand is working closely with the Hong Kong Golf Association. Not only does the partnership promote key competition events such as the HKGA Mercedes-Benz Classics, it is also involved in a range of initiatives for juniors such as Golf for Schools and Festival of Sport.
Proof that Mercedes-Benz not only makes “damn good cars,” it also knows the importance of investing in the future, whether technology or generation.

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