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Selling Mercedes-Benz in China
Summary:There is a consensus among high-ranking executives of automotive brands that a car's global image largely depends on the brand's image in the Chinese market.

By Liu Xiaolin (刘晓林)
Issue 592, Oct 29, 2012
Corporation, page 32
Translated by Laura Lin
Original article: [Chinese]

Last month, Mercedes-Benz launched its new SL-Class Roadster in China - the release coincided with the opening of the Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week in Beijing.

The release into China of the SL-class cabriolet at this time is a sign that the German car manufacturer is confident about the Chinese market and more importantly that it doesn't plan to alter its recent strategy of selling Mercedes-Benz as a "youth" brand.

As part of this ongoing plan of rejuvenating the brand in China, a plan to merge the company's two separate sales units, Mercedes-Benz China (imported vehicles) and Benz Beijing (locally made cars) is also in the works.

It is believed that Benz China will be placed in charge of sales, marketing, finance and customer service whereas Benz Beijing will be responsible for expanding dealership networkds, second-hand car sales, human resources and labor unions.

The goal of the joint venture is for the two sales units to operate "with one voice" and "promote one brand" in order to achieve a more effective use of resources.

All these efforts are part of a strategy launched by the Daimler group five years ago which aims at consolidating its image in China as the top luxury car manufacturer for young, sporty and glamorous people.

In 2009 and 2010 Mercedes-Benz achieved a 77 percent inceases in sales year-on-year, becoming the fastest growing luxury car brand in the Chinese market.

Even when the problems caused by operating two separate Mercedes-Benz sales units began to affect the brand's sales performance in the second half of 2011, it nonetheless managed to enjoy a 59 percent rate of growth. This is one of the reasons why the two sales units have decided to combine their forces.

Star Power

The German luxury car manufacturer sought to rebrand itself in China by holding events in collaboration with the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing (The Egg) and also sponsoring the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. The company also tied itself to various high-profile sporting events (tennis, golf and F1), arts festivals and fashion weeks.

In order to cater to the increasingly discerning Chinese consumers, all luxury car brands have been changing their sales and branding strategies. BMW tries to promote itself as the car of the Chinese elite, whereas Audi has been trying to get rid of the association between their cars and corrupt officials.
Since young people mostly identify with celebrities, the brand has started using sports, film and pop stars as their spokespeople.

In 2011, one of its made-for-China advertisements - featuring Kobe Bryant in a tiny Smart car - was so successful that it not only reversed the flagging sales of the Smart cars in China, but went on to be launched on the global market as well.

Mercedes-Benz has been using star-power to send a different kind of message: Stars are bright, but most importantly, they are Mercedes-Benz clients. Kobe Bryant was in Shanghai to hand over the key of China's 10,000th Smart car to its new owner, while Roger Federer participated in a M-Class SUV promotional event.

There is a consensus among high-ranking executives of automotive brands that a car's global image largely depends on the brand's image in the Chinese market.

This month, in the 2012 best global brands survey by global branding consultancy Interbrand, Mercedes-Benz ranked no. 11.

Daimler's CEO Dieter Zetsche set the company the goal of reclaiming the top spot in the luxury car sector by 2020 at least. But first it has to succeed in China.

News in English via World Crunch (link)


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