“So the plan this year is 12 new models. This will be number five with these two and seven more to come”, says Lance Bennett, VP of sales and marketing at Mercedes-Benz

In conversation with Lance Bennett, VP, Sales and Marketing, Mercedes-Benz India talks about the luxury segment, Merc’s focus on TEVs and the plan for the year ahead
Santosh Iyer (left) MD and CEO Mercedes-Benz India and Lance Bennett (right) VP of sales and marketing Mercedes-Benz India, with the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 facelift and the Mercedes-AMG S 63 E Performance
Santosh Iyer (left) MD and CEO Mercedes-Benz India and Lance Bennett (right) VP of sales and marketing Mercedes-Benz India, with the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 facelift and the Mercedes-AMG S 63 E Performance Mercedes-Benz India

Two very expensive Mercedes-Benz cars launched in India today – the Mercedes-AMG S 63 E Performance (including the limited Edition 1 version)and the facelifted Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600. Both cars are ‘TEVs’, or top-end vehicles as Mercedes-Benz calls them, sitting north of Rs 1.5 crore. There has been a clear focus from Mercedes on this top end space, not just in India but globally and that continues into this year. 

In this interview with Lance Bennett, VP of sales and marketing at Mercedes-Benz, we talk about how the unique Indian market is responding to this push towards the top end, their willingness to spend on limited edition cars at a premium, and the general direction the luxury market is taking. We also talk about how Mercedes’ more affordable models continue to be important to the brand and how these cars actually drive the numbers. Lance also sheds light on the next year, including the fact that we can expect seven more Mercs this year! Read on!

Mercedes-Benz India launches the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 at ₹3.35 crore

Mercedes-Benz India launches the Mercedes-AMG S 63 E Performance at ₹3.3 crore and the S 63 E Performance Edition 1 at ₹3.8 crore

Mercedes-Benz and the top end segment

Aatish Mishra: Two cars at the absolute top end. Why focus on the top end so heavily?

Lance Bennett: It has always been our strategy to grow the top end so I think we're very proud. This has been our strategy for the last couple of years now and you'll notice a lot of our recent launches have been in the top end AMG, Maybach or GLS products as well but we want to continue to grow this top end market so it now represents 25 percent of our sales and it's a very strong part of our business.

AM: The bulk of the sales happens with stuff like the SUVs and the E-class so there is going to be continued focus on that right?

LB: Yes we still want to continue to grow our full product portfolio so core represents about 60 percent and then entry 15 percent but overall and you know the bulk of our launches will be top end vehicles but we're also going to be offering or launching new vehicles in the core and entry segment luxury as well. We have another seven new launches to come this year and there'll be products in those ranges as well.

On special editions and customisations

AM: We've seen that special editions do really well like the G 63 Grand Edition. Will you all be having more special editions coming in through this year?

Lance: So the S 63 E Performance launch edition is actually limited to three vehicles so once that's sold out, then it'll be the regular S63 Performance and people will be able to customise them. But this special launch edition has lots of unique features about it that are not order-able through the custom selection of options. But yes, we will continue to focus on special editions and we do have more coming in the pipeline as well.

AM: You spoke about customisation that customers going ahead will be able to do that. Do customers spec their cars very heavily? What trends have you noticed from Indian customers customising their cars?

Lance: Yes, people do want something that is unique.For example with a S 63 we anticipate that most of our customers will want to custom order their vehicle and so that means that there'll be a six month wait time in order to get the car and then it's a little bit more expensive when you get to the end of the year because they have to place the order with the factory etc. But we've got thousands of different combinations of options that can make your own unique car as well. I think that's also beena part of our success as well with that top end growth we've been offering on the last few vehicles that we've launched as well. The GLS Maybach will be similar as well so in the GLS Maybach we see customers wanting to get the luxury rear seat setup which is the two sort of captain chairs as well with the fridge in between. If you look at, say for example, our G-Class, there's a huge palette of colors and people really want to get something that's special and unique for their G-Class as well so you know they're happy to wait a year or a year and a half for those cars, but they're very special each each one are one off. 

AM: You did mention that the launch edition is going to come in as three units. Following that is S63 the number of units that we're going to get limited or is it just as many as people can order?

Lance: We will try to work with the factory to get enough supply to meet the customer demand,I think that's our goal to work with the factory to make sure we can satisfy every customer that wants a car. To be fair, the waiting time does push out a little bit you know as I mentioned the G-Class before. We have extremely high demand for that car and it means that the wait time does extend out a little bit more but we don't want to disappoint our customers so we will be able to secure them a production slot but maybe it goes out a bit more than six months.

On downsizing AMG’s engines

AM: Talking about AMGs, Mercedes has received some flack for shifting from V8s to hybrid four cylinders with something like the C63 and demand also possibly hasn't hasn't been there for those cars in European markets. Do you see the Indian customer being similarly fixated on a V8 or do you think they'd be willing to try new technology like a hybrid four cylinder?

Lance: I think the Indian consumer will be interested in this new technology and I think that's our opportunity to show them that. Those powertrains, electric powertrains, hybrid powertrains for performance vehicles that do offer amazing torque, power and performance. So I think that Indian consumers will be interested in the future powertrains that we're going to market with. I think this is a great example of our technology and the work we do with the Formula 1 team. This S 63 as you know offers the best of both worlds. It's got a 0 to 100kmph sprint time of 3.3 seconds and then also can be driven up to 33km on full electric now. There's no other car that I know of that is that extreme performance car and also offers the luxury of an S-Class in terms of rear seat comfort and then can also be an electric car as well.

On local assembly

AM: Coming to the Maybach side of things, the Maybach sedan assembled in India. Is there potential for the SUV to be assembled here at any point?

Lance: We always evaluate the best option for local and CBU at this stage. So, the Maybach SUV will continue to be a CBU product.

AM: You've also just come off your best year of sales in India and congratulations on that. What are the plans for this year to continue that push forward?

Lance: I think the key thing is continuing to bring new models to market. So the plan this year is 12 new models. These two will take it to five, and seven more to come. More top end vehicles, more electric vehicles as well – there's three new electric cars coming to market in the next seven months so that's exciting for us as well as we continue to grow our electric market and offerings as well. I think also making sure that we secure enough supply as well so that we don't want to have you know bank big orders. We want to make sure that we can deliver our cars as quickly as possible to our customers.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Evo India