In a little over a year, Mercedes in India has launched over 20 cars. Where are you headed?
We have recognised the potential of India to emerge as the next China for luxury cars. We sold close to 6,000 cars last year, which logically does not call for this many launches but we realise that this is an explosive market where we need to be very aggressive. In the next 10 years I would be surprised if we are not selling around 50-60,000 cars per year here, the way it happened in China.
Your competitors are not launching as many cars but still selling good numbers. Are these launches not stretching you thin?
Not every car is positioned like the other and hence will not do as well as the other. The bulk of out volumes come from the C & E class and that will continue to be the case. We needed to do something different here and show India are true technological and product depth. Hence some of these cars like the Maybach, AMGs, convertibles and G Wagon are an image building exercise. We want to show we are a sporty, stylish contemporary carmaker.
You have been in India longer than anybody else in the category. Why this sudden image building exercise?
All great companies keep changing with the times and who knows that better than Mercedes with a 125 year old history. Since the time we came to India, the industry has changed significantly and so has the potential.
Hence we believed we needed to do something different. In the late 90s we recognised that just being a leader in technology was not enough anymore as buying a car had become a more emotional exercise. Knowing that technology is our strong point anyway, we are focusing more on design by purpose.
What about perceptions of Mercedes as a brand for the older generation. Does this bother you?
I am aware of this perception but then not all of it is logically correct. A Mercedes customer is one of the most contented in the industry and we have the highest percentage of retainers.... once a person buys a Mercedes, he remains with us. That also explains why our cars have the highest resale prices.
What we have to do better is to convince newer, younger people to buy our cars even more for we know once they buy it, they will stay with us.