The three pointed star

  • Business
  • Saturday, 20 Feb 2010

THE three pointed star is among the most sought after and recognisable status symbols in the world. In Malaysia, the Mercedes-Benz has been a perennial top seller among the luxury brands, a marque noted for its engineering value and driving mechanics.

“A Mercedes-Benz signifies the pinnacle of luxury, safety and automotive technology,” says Mercedes-Benz Malaysia president and CEO Peter Honegg.

“Decades of excellent engineering and design has cemented the uniqueness, luxury and value of our cars. Mercedes-Benz’s has championed many firsts in the realm of auto safety and efficient technology and that puts us at the forefront of our industry.”

Although Malaysia at one time, on a per capita basis, was noted to be a large consumer of fine German automobiles, Honegg said sales here cannot be compared with other markets because each is unique.

“Mercedes-Benz is doing very well within the luxury car segment and we have maintained the overall lead in this segment.” Below is an excerpt of the interview with Honegg.

StarBizWeek: What is your view of the luxury car market? Is Malaysia a wealthy and large enough market for luxury car makers?

Peter Honegg: The luxury car market in Malaysia has remained resilient despite the recent economic slump. While globally, the automotive sector was significantly affected, the trend in Asia was reversed with China leading the way to post record sales in the passenger car market.

Malaysia too emerged largely unscathed by the global dip. The passenger car market experienced a minimal drop in sales, and the luxury segment reflected this trend.

There is still much room for growth within the luxury segment in Malaysia and for luxury car makers to expand their presence and introduce more models. Consumer sentiment is improving and spending power has generally increased as Malaysia moves towards an industrialised nation status.

Furthermore, brand recognition and loyalty also drive demand with luxury car owners demanding more choices and greater differentiation in service, quality, etc.

What is your view on grey imports and have they impacted your business?

Our sales figures reflect cars that are sold via our authorised dealerships. The demand for pre-owned Mercedes-Benz cars has seen a steady increase over the years contributing to improved residual value.

To ensure customers receive the Mercedes-Benz experience, we introduced Proven Exclusivity, our certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz programme, to better manage how Mercedes-Benz pre-owned vehicles were perceived and marketed. This move was prudent for us to protect the integrity of the brand and to maintain equity on our cars, new and pre-owned.

The programme offers customers a certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz at a competitive price with the assurance of manufacturer-backed warranties. It is our way of ensuring customers who chose to purchase a pre-owned Mercedes-Benz benefit from the same assurance and standards that new Mercedes-Benz owners are accustomed to.

Proven Exclusivity allows us to explore a wider customer base, complements existing demand for new cars while improving residual for pre-owned cars.

Through this programme we are able to reach more Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts and provide them with the opportunity to drive home a Mercedes-Benz.

Why did Mercedes decided against introducing its range of diesel vehicles in the country?

We believe that Malaysia is ready for diesel cars given that many are aware of its cost-savings and environmental benefits.

We definitely want to bring in our diesel cars under our BlueEfficiency series. Our diesel cars require Euro 4 diesel, so we look forward to the Government’s roadmap to introduce Euro 4M in 2011. Once that is available, we can cater to the local demand for diesel-powered cars with our fleet of fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly diesel cars.

How would Malaysia compare with other Southeast Asian countries when it comes to wanting and buying Mercedes cars?

The demand for Mercedes-Benz is strong across the region as a Mercedes-Benz represents the same values to a driver, regardless of country. Malaysia has been a significant market for us as we’ve had a presence here for over 50 years and this has lead to strong brand recognition and loyalty.

How does Mercedes-Benz view competition among the other luxury marques in the country and how does it plan to fend off competition?

The demand for luxury cars in Malaysia has grown leading to increased competition amongst the luxury carmakers. We welcome this competition as it is healthy.

We continue to be vigilant to engage our customers while rolling out creative marketing initiatives and exclusive customer appreciation activities. This goes beyond selling cars, it is selling the entire Mercedes-Benz experience.

Mercedes-Benz owners are part of an exclusive club and want to feel special. We further the driving experience with special previews, exclusive social engagements, sports and cultural events.

The brand promise ensures the sale but superior personalised after sales service secures brand loyalty.

Related Stories: Driving indulgence The BMW experience Naza’s world of luxury automobiles Asia-Pacific region to drive demand for luxury vehicle manufacturers The parallel market

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