Recently appointed as a member of the Board of Management for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing and Sales (since January 1, 2017), Britta Seeger is an experienced executive who has successfully held leading positions in sales worldwide. By her appointment, the board management wanted an outstanding woman with qualifications such as in business administration along with her international experience.
We had the opportunity during this year’s Shanghai Auto Show to have a quick chat with her and to give some insights on Daimler as a whole and Mercedes-Benz.
AW: How do you describe Mercedes-Benz’s overall performance in 2016? What are your general expectations for the upcoming years?
2016, it was the best ever year. It was a fantastic year for us not only globally but in all the regions, we sold the most cars. We started the big journey back in 2011 to become number one again and to take the crown. We were able to take the momentum in the beginning of this year. China was a good start and we will continue to achieve great results in the first quarter. We are very confident for 2017 with the launch of the 2017 S-Class (which is the icon for us in the upper class) and at the New York Auto Show we launched GLC and GLC coupe, and the AMG versions.
AW: What are your biggest markets?
China, North America, Germany, UK and France.
AW: Is it true that Mercedes-Benz has the best ever lineup in the whole automotive industry nowadays, as opposed to the past years? Do you have any segments that aren’t filled yet?
It is not up to us to judge if we have the best portfolio. We have to ask our customers. With great sales results this means that our customers are satisfied. It is the package of everything that Mercedes offers nowadays. The huge step forward for us started in 2012 when we launched the new A-Class, whose exterior design was a quantum leap for the compact car segment. Then, we moved forward to an appealing interior design. In the field of sales and marketing you have to always investigate for new segments to be filled. It is like an ongoing thing. If you look, for instance, at the X-Class and the next big strategic step is our EV segment. On a continuous basis we listen a lot to our customers; where are the wishes going. SUV is a big trend in the world. In the future you will see new car segments that you haven’t seen yet.
AW: We all know that the S-Class is the flagship and every time it comes out, it’s the best that Mercedes can offer. Here in Shanghai the new S-Class has been launched. How can this new S-Class be much better in comparison with the previous one?
The three major factors of the facelifted S-Class are innovation, efficiency and comfort. In these various aspects, if you look at innovation such as the pre-reading map that will support you on the roads, in the efficiency – we introduced new engine variants with the new inline six-cylinder, and in the comfort – we introduced the energizing comfort to make you feel at home in the S-Class. I think the combination of these three aspects will lead to a different feeling driving the S-Class.
AW: In the field of sales and marketing, how are you able to market a new product in regards of these three aspects: innovation, efficiency and comfort?
As I said, there are many ongoing tasks in sales and marketing. You have to always be aware about the trends ongoing. If you take, for example, the efficiency topic, this is like one task that we take with us and a key thing to promote. We even produce and offer efficient driving. Efficiency is one big strategic plan. And when it comes to comfort, it comes automatically in line with the innovation aspect. The more you can drive autonomously you can enjoy the comfort of your car. So it is not only a marketing gadget but also you can identify it as a product feature for our customers.
AW: In the past years a race has begun between auto manufacturers and high-tech giants’ firms on cooperating to develop the cars of our future. What’s your personal opinion on electric and autonomous cars?
In different areas in the world the zero emissions is a big topic – especially in China. It is also a big topic in the US. Europe is a bit slower in that regards. Apropos this we will see a drastic change in 2020. We are in full transition and not only will we provide different products in this area but the infrastructure plays a major role. It is a matter of the different society which will accept the electric/autonomous vehicles first. We still truly believe that the steering wheel is a must on our vehicles, even in autonomous cars. Even I see it that the fully autonomous cars will not take place everywhere, mainly in the main and big cities.