“I don't see any challenges,” Lance Bennett, VP sales and marketing Mercedes-Benz India on the transition to electric vehicles
Mercedes-Benz India has a target to have 25 per cent of their sales coming from electric vehicles in the next four years. And to that end Mercedes will, “Continue to bring more electric products in the near future,” says Lance Bennett, VP sales and marketing, Mercedes-Benz India in conversation with evo India editor Sirish Chandran. In his earlier role in New Zealand Lance drove the EQC electric SUV, the first luxury electric car to be launched in India three years ago, and is a big fan of the comfort, refinement, and performance. He says, “I encourage anyone to come in and experience [electric cars],” and that is his focus at the dealer level. “Encouraging customers to drive and just spreading the enjoyment of experiencing an electric car.”
Lance Bennett (LB): We were happy to sell a customer a car, whether it's an EQS or and EQE. There would be some customers that are evaluating an EQS and then end up buying an EQE because of the SUV concept. We certainly have customers which have been asking for mid-size and large-size SUVs with a good range. And here it is.
SC: Why not the EQE 300?
LB: Customers expect us to deliver the top-end product, and that's why we went for the EQE 500 4-MATIC. And in addition, we specced it up as well. We've put all the content in it – advanced radar cruise control, level 2 ADAS, 56-inch Hyperscreen, head-up display, HEPA filters, massage and ventilated seats, all those things that our customers are looking for.
SC: Will the EQE be assembled in India?
LB: The EQE is not available as a CKD all around the world. It won't be coming to this market as a CKD. It's just not possible for us to bring it here. It'll always be a CBU in this market.
SC: What’s your target for portfolio electrification?
LB: Over the next four years 25 per cent of our portfolio is going to be electric. And we will continue to bring more electric products in the near future.
(Right now EVs constitute 5 per cent of Mercedes-Benz India sales).
SC: Does the EQS continue to see strong demand?
LB: We're still have a steady inquiry and order intake but we have had challenges with supply.
The EQS is more of a driver's car with a combination rear seat comfort as well. We've also enhanced the EQS' rear seat comfort with added rear seat entertainment.
SC: Is the dealer network going to be expanded?
LB: All of our dealers can sell electric vehicles. The goal at the moment is to enhance our dealer network through having the Mercedes retail architecture. This is a more luxurious retail environment, like what we have here in the Customer Experience Center [at the Mercedes-Benz factory in Chakan]. That’s our goal with our dealer network.
SC: How do you position your electric portfolio compared to combustion engines?
LB: I'd say the best thing with an electric vehicle is just to drive it. There's interest from customers, on what is it like to drive an electric car, and it's one of those things that I encourage anyone to come in and experience. Even if you have made the decision that your next car is going to be an ICE, I still think it's a good idea just to give it a try, because maybe the car after that might be an electric vehicle.
People always want to talk about what is it like to drive an electric car. That's what our dealers are doing, encouraging customers to drive and just spreading the enjoyment of experiencing an electric car. It’s a different experience from an ICE vehicle.
Back in New Zealand, I had an EQC for quite a long period. I loved driving the electric car because when you're commuting to and from work it is very comfortable, very quiet, very relaxing. You can have the music down low, because you're not competing with the other ambient noises. But then if you want to be sprightly and overtake or duck between traffic or whatever, then you've got lots of power on tap to be able to do that.
SC: Is this a strategy we're going to see in the future of just one fully specced variant of your cars?
LB: No. We will continue to have multiple engines like we do with the GLE, it just depends on the segment. I think in this particular model [EQE 500], given that it's sort of a new and evolving segment, we would start with the top-end vehicle. It doesn't make sense to have, say, three different models in the segment if you know that the volume is limited. We also want to try and reduce complexity and not just add complexity for the sake of sake of it.
SC: What’s your strategy for electrics going ahead?
LB: You will see a full spread. You will see a full spread of electrics and to be at 25 per cent [of all Mercs sold being electric] we're going to have to have the full range. By 2030 we will be ready to go fully electric, so that means we'll have an electric vehicle in every single segment.
SC: What is the biggest challenge for India's electrification journey?
LB: I don't see any challenges. Obviously, the infrastructure is developing but in reality, there's an opportunity for the infrastructure owners as well, right? If they see more electric cars on the road, and they see that I can have a charging station over there and make some money, then they go and put a charging station there so it just kind of evolves at the same time. I don't necessarily see anything that is going to hold it back especially now with our vehicles offering ranges of 500km plus. Now there's no real compromise. You don't have to change your lifestyle now that you've got an electric vehicle. And then the price points – if we compare a GLE 400D against an EQE 500, when you add the additional content, it’s comparable.