'Our task at Mercedes is to have the right setup. It is the customers who make the decision. But, if our approach with the Indian customers is right, we will grow.'
Mercedes Benz has been ruling the Indian luxury car market for three consecutive years in spite of challenging market conditions.
Britta Seeger, below, member of the board of management at Daimler AG (overseeing marketing and sales), tells Ajay Modi in an interview that products and dealers have been behind this feat.
Mercedes has done well in the last three years. What has been working?
You have to have the right products.
If you take the new E-Class we launched last year, it was our best-selling model with over 60 per cent growth.
Besides products, you have to have dealers who are living the brand promise.
We are investing in customer relations; we have the digital drive in service.
And I think these ingredients -- product, right brand positioning, right dealers, right team in our organisation -- make the success.
Where does India figure in Mercedes’s list of priorities?
India is a very important market for us, and you see this in our set-up here.
We have a strong footprint in production and we are continuously expanding our portfolio of ‘Made in India’ products.
If you see our growth in the previous years, we have doubled our sales figures.
Plus, for the third time in a row, we are the top luxury brand.
India’s contribution in terms of sales volume to your global sales will be somewhere in the single digit. Does double-digit contribution seem possible?
Our task at Mercedes is to have the right setup.
It is the customers who make the decision.
But, if our approach with the Indian customers is right, we will grow.
If you look at the last couple of years, there were some setbacks for the luxury segment...
We are working in nearly all countries, and every market is different.
We have to manage our business within the market circumstances.
So, when there are changes in regulations, changes in tax and customs, we have to understand the impact on our business, and we have to manage this.
But, does that not make it tough to plan?
If you are a company working on a global scale, you will face different challenges in different markets every year.
Would it be easier for everybody in the world if there are be no challenges?
Yes, absolutely. But it is normal to face changing situations in markets.
It is all about the speed to accommodate changes.
Do you think your Indian R&D setup contribute in any significant manner to your global product development?
Yes, they are doing it already. India is a very important part in the overall research and development network today and tomorrow.
Bengaluru is the largest Daimler R&D Centre outside Germany and contributes to various engineering and IT domains.
India is now talking about electric mobility. How will Mercedes approach this?
We are prepared. We have plug-in hybrids with increasing range, and we have full electric vehicles.
We have to keep in mind that in order to move customers into electric mobility, infrastructure is key. Also, customers must be willing to buy.
Images: The Mercedes-Benz concept EQ electric car unveiled at the Auto Expo in Greater Noida last week. Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com.