SHANGHAI – A year after its masterful adaptation of the popular Chinese song In the Field of Hope to usher in the All New E-Class Long-Wheelbase, Mercedes-Benz took its China localization strategy up another notch at the world premiere of the New S-Class here on April 18, likening the flagship model’s iconic three-torch LED daytime running lights to the three-striped armbands that top Chinese elementary students wore in recognition of their leadership and best-in-class status.
“The three-torch design is a very nice association of what the Chinese remember from their school days: only the best-in-class can wear these three stripes,” quipped Hubertus Troska, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Greater China.
The new Multibeam LED Headlights with Ultra Range, which can illuminate the road up to 650 meters ahead for a longer illumination range than any other car in the segment, is one of three key features Troska highlighted at the premiere event, which highlighted the ways in which best car in the world just got better. Furthermore, the top of the line Mercedes-Maybach S 680, which is exclusive to China, delivers the pinnacle of prestige and respect to Chinese customers via an auspicious number, as well as next level autonomous driving features including camera and radar systems capable of looking up to 250 meters ahead, which combine with map and navigation data to calculate driving behavior to elevate the latest generation of the S-Class beyond the level of its predecessors.
“These systems take the vehicle’s luxury up another notch, which separates excellence from the industry benchmark and the S-Class from the rest,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, who presented another world-first feature of the new model: Energizing Comfort, which links various comfort systems such as climate control, ambience lighting, massage and fragrancing functions into a single system and allows customers to select a suitable wellness configuration to suit their mood with a simple touch of a button.
Furthermore, three new major technologies— integrated starter alternator in series production, intelligent turbocharging with electric auxiliary compressor and 48V electric system— are responsible for boosting the New S-Class’ engine performance to a whole new level, according to Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.
The New S-Class arrives less than four years after the 10th generation of the flagship held its premiere in China. Nearly one out of three (30 percent) of S-Classes finds a new customer in China and over 60 percent of Maybach worldwide sales goes to Chinese customers. Over the last four years, Mercedes-Benz sold more cars in this segment in China than its two major German competitors, which is part of the reason why Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed 49 months of consecutive growth in China, with the company’s sales growth in the first quarter of 2017 up 37 percent to more than 150,000 units (including smart).
Stay humble, stay focused
The fact that Mercedes-Benz just had its best quarter of sales in the history of the company and led the Chinese premium market for the first time ever should be cause for joy, but Zetsche and Troska cautioned in an interview on April 19 at Auto Shanghai 2017 that leadership means more than just sales numbers, and the brand will continue to focus on offering superior value propositions to its customers and build bridges between the brand and customers.
“We will continue to satisfy our customers and see how our development in general and relative to our competitors will be at the end of the year,” said Zetsche. “Every month we start at zero sales.”
“We need to stay humble, focused on our customers and continue to work hard to bring out the best products,” said Troska.
The Concept A Sedan that made its global debut in Shanghai along with the New S-Class will address that gap while giving a glimpse of the series production version of the next generation of A-Class vehicles that will launch in China by the end of 2018, according to Zetsche.
“For us, it doesn’t matter if we are the first or the second one to do that (offer a product in a segment) — it is important that we offer the best to our customers in the segment,” said Zetsche.
“For us, leadership means always two dimensions. One is volume and the other one is product and brand positioning,” said Troska. “We have in China a very strong position with the unique offering of the S-Class sedan and the Maybach. Both cars enjoy strong volume and clearly superior value proposition to our customers.”
Troska stressed that with the recent release of the Administrative Methods of Automobile Sales regulations, Mercedes-Benz will work even more closely with dealers to offer the best products and services. “We strongly believe that for a premium brand, a premium brand experience is crucial for success. That is part on products and part on dealer performance and relations. We have been investing heavily in and enjoying very good relations with our dealers and they have a lot of confidence in us,” said Troska.
And Mercedes-Benz wants to be even more connected to its Chinese customers, offering unique connectivity features such as the Baidu CarLife and Apple CarPlay, which are used by overwhelming numbers of people in China, according to Troska.
Asked about the state of the premium car market, both Zetsche and Troska believe there is no real reason to believe that the premium business is not going to become even better.
“One of the growth drivers of the premium market is the addition of new vehicles as the Chinese economy and nation get more prosperous,” said Troska. “This is part of the dynamics of China that makes me positive that we have further growth potential even if the overall passenger car market does not grow as strongly anymore.”