Lennart Mueller-Teut, head of Marketing and Communications for Mercedes-Benz in the Middle East has said its new ‘Mercedes Me Connect’ system will transform and revolutionize the way consumers interact with a vehicle. ArabWheels managed to secure an exclusive interview with the regional head of Marketing in order to discuss its new concept models, which Mercedes described as the ‘Future of Mobility’ when introducing the products at the Dubai International Motor Show. In addition to this, he highlighted Mercedes’ new CASE strategy, its policy on electrification in the Middle East and its plans for 2018.
How important is an event like the Dubai International Motor Show for Mercedes-Benz to showcase its new models and concepts to its customers in the Middle East?
The Dubai International Motor Show is a hugely important event for us. It is without doubt the highlight event of the year. Every two years we’re waiting eagerly to be part of this whole event because the region really is so enthusiastic about cars. It’s not just a means of transportation here, it is self-expression, and is one of the few things that really matter. In 2017, we really focused on new topics like the EQ and revised our strategy because we can see the Middle East region is going in a direction that is really reshaping its approach to personal and public transportation. The region continues to be a very important market for Mercedes-Benz in terms of our growth globally. We believe we’ve enjoyed excellent growth because of the caliber of the cars that we’re selling in the Middle East, and we have one of the highest AMG shares in the world in the region, and that provides us with the required capital to keep investing in the future development of our models.
Mercedes-Benz has proclaimed that it’s bringing the ‘Future of Mobility’ to the Middle East region. Can you tell us about some of the groundbreaking models and concepts that are making their regional premieres at this exhibition?
We started this process some time ago with the introduction of our hybrid models, especially in Abu Dhabi where the products are performing very well. In Jordan we have one of the highest shares when it comes to hybrid models, especially with the E-Class hybrid models. The ‘Future of Mobility’ concept models that we showcased here at the Dubai International Motor Show have certainly caught the eye and captured the imagination of car enthusiasts in the region. The three models we introduced were the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE, Mercedes-AMG GT Concept and the Mercedes-Maybach S 650. The reason we decided to introduce these three models was to actually show the wealth of topics we’re working on as an organization. We have a new strategy for the future, which is based around electric intelligence and this is part of our new CASE strategy. CASE stands for Connected Autonomous Share Services and Electric Drive. In addition to this, we wanted to show the pinnacle of luxury with the new Mercedes-Maybach and incredible performance capabilities with the new AMG models that we’ve introduced. Mercedes has always been a pioneer in new technologies. When it comes to autonomous driving, we were the first brand last year to conduct a fully automated drive between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. What will ultimately determine the future of autonomy in passenger vehicles will be certain regulations and the infrastructure. Technically it is feasible, we’ve demonstrated this before. However, now it’s all about accessibility and permitting the use of automated vehicles on public roads in order to accelerate the development and deployment of self-driving cars.
Mercedes has claimed that by 2020, it will have introduced 10 electric models to the market. How much of a challenge will it be for Mercedes to get their customers in the Middle East to go ‘electric’?
I think in other markets in the world we see that they have a different framework that encourages and incentivizes customers to buy into electric vehicles earlier than say that of here in the Middle East region. That could either be because of taxation, the oil price or the cost of petrol. For example, Jordan has introduced for its residents tax incentives to go electric; so it’s dependent on the market. We have very high expectations towards our electric vehicle strategy–and we can see that the Dubai government is supporting a lot of electric initiatives and we firmly believe that this will encourage customers to consider electric vehicles in the future.
I think another key factor is the growing awareness in relation to our environment, and the realization that embracing electric mobility can have such a positive impact on our climate. One of the biggest challenges will be infrastructure, and you need the right infrastructure to support electrification. I think ICE engines is a proven concept that works well here in the region, so I think an obstacle will be trying to prove that electric vehicles will be as reliable as combustion engines in terms of battery life. However, we’re at the forefront of this and Mercedes has announced that we will invest €10 billion over the next few years to ensure that we’re not just reaching the quality, durability and longevity of our combustion engines but we’re definitely aiming to surpass it as well.
Can you highlight some of the connected capabilities provided by ‘Mercedes Me Connect’, and disclose to us when it will be introduced across the region?
The whole ecosystem of CASE is not just about connectivity, it’s not just about adding a few features to your car that then allows you to control your car through your smartphone. For us, we’re creating a whole new ecosystem that is changing the way consumers interact with a vehicle; it’s no longer just a means of transportation. For us, it’s an interconnected interface for the future. We’re going to launch ‘Mercedes Me Connect’ in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in February 2018. It will provide you with full connectivity between you and your car and we’re going to have a super application with ‘Mercedes Me Portal’ that allows you to start the car, pre-cool the car and check for services/maintenance on the vehicle. So initially, we will launch Mercedes Me Connect in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in February 2018, and then in eighteen months launch it all across the Middle East region.
Can you highlight to us what the primary objectives and aims are for Mercedes-Benz in the Middle East region in 2018?
Over the last three years we’ve seen the highest output of new models across the industry. On average, each year we have 9 to 10 cars, without any predecessor, that we introduce into the market. We have expanded our product portfolio drastically, and 2018 is going to be a year when we focus on a few of our volume models as well. You’re going to see the launch of the new C+ Family and it’s going to be a very interesting year for AMG with the introduction of the GT Concept vehicle, which is scheduled to be launched in November 2018. One other big highlight for Mercedes-Benz will be the introduction of the new G-Class.