The ‘revolution’ of Mercedes Benz

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The new Mercedes-Benz platform – CarTogether – which promotes car sharing to reduce emissions and traffic, promised to be a revolution.

What we lacked was that the German firm – rather than promoting his products or the image of the brand – it is more precisely using the image of the revolutionary par excellence: ‘Che’ Guevara, with the M-B symbol on his beret, instead of the Red Star!

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“Someone still believe that car sharing borders on communism, if that is the case, long live the revolution!” came to pronounce Dieter Zetsche, Mercedes-Benz executive, in presenting this platform.

In my opinion, I would like that Mr. Zetsche and his Managers, before disturbing the undying spirit of the ‘Che’ – who, with Castro, loved to drive Alfa Romeo cars – should observe in deep what is happening in their dealerships, where the salesmen treats the prospects as they were beggars campesinos farmers, and not like respectables Premium Prospects!

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This is one of the reasons why the M-B owned dealerships and the subsidiaries – in Italy – are loosing millions of dollars!

Following the protests and legal actions made ​​by some groups of Cuban exiles, finally arrived an apology from the Daimler AG, the group that owns the Mercedes-Benz. “Daimler is not rehabilitating the lives and actions of this historical figure or political philosophy, we apologize if anyone felt offended.”

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When similar apology will come from Daimler AG to all the disgruntled customers, to the unsatisfied prospects or to all those who have not received a Premium treatment at the M-B showrooms, as expected?

And now someone – Corriere della Sera, Feb. 11, page 31 – points out that the art of discouraging customers has also been extended to the service department of the Mercedes-Benz official network, where a used Satellite Navigation System has been sold at the same price of the new spare part piece (more than 5,000 euros)…

Someone on Mars should be noticed that the better advertising are the recommendations – or disparage – of the dealers coming from Customers!

Long live to severe Sales, Aftersales and Customer Care processes at the M-B dealerships!

This will be the real revolution!

Maurizio Sala

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9 Comments

  1. Peter Viljoen says:

    Could not agree with you more! It seems that the ethos displayed by Mercedes-Benz in Europe is a corporate culture that extends all over the world. It is not surprising though as any interaction I have had with MB staff at head office level has reminded me of how arrogant they are. When I saw the large backdrop of Che, I smiled quietly at the irony of Mercedes-Benz using the portrait of an international terrorist for hire for a branding exercise. Did they inadvertently let slip their real characters? After all, the fish rots from the head and if the behavior from the OEM is bad (which it is) then this will trickle down to dealer level.

  2. @ Peter!

    The fact that a professional of your caliber appreciates so much my opinion makes me honored!

    You should know that the same article – published in Italy a few days ago – really sparked a fierce debate, with contrasting points of view.

    Very well: to the health of automotive are good constructive criticism!

    Ciao Peter, greetings to your beautiful land of South Africa!

  3. Krishan Kapoor says:

    A really good observation by Maurizio about current situation.

  4. Mike Clayton says:

    I enjoyed seeing thid blog for first time.
    Would like to see more about the “new standards policies” for Dealers.
    That is always controversial in US as well.

    But here we have many multiple OEM semi-independent dealers it seems.
    And the recessions during the Bush, Jr years killed off many dealerships.
    There is a “revolution” of sorts driven by the OEM need for strong dealerships of some kind, even conglomerates with mixed loyalties. But the popular revolution in US is simply diversity of choice, independence of mind, and love of the freedom of owning a car. Our dealer loyalty is limited in most families to current quality-price-design-performance winner in our minds. And the order of those 4 factors varies from one person to another. Dealerships are not a big loyalty factor with many of us unless someone in family works there.

    Looks like Mercedes picked a politically controversial symbol for its car-sharing “revolution” announcement, which could have beeh predicted by any global public relations expert, but perhaps was an attempt at German humor (I am half German, and often make very bad jokes). Humor with mulitple languages and global audience is often very dangerous for business. At Motorola long ago we were trained NOT to make jokes when visiting foreign countries, simply try to understand how we could help them, and how not to be involved in drinking contests in Taiwan (for example).

    In US we have very diverse population, and many of us actually preferred the early Cuban revolutionaries to the old tyrant and organized crime people that ran Cuba before. But the devil is in the details. Revolutions are messy. Breaking eggs does not always result in an omellete.

    But thanks very much for sharing this blog. I will read many of the older stories, and try to understand better the European Automotive OEM/Dealershp/Customer culture.

    Ours in US is changing every year. My relatives are buying Hyundai’s lately. I drive a VW TDI 2006. My wife drives a 2010 Ford Escape medium size SUV for trips to get groceries and haul large family around (we live in the wide open SouthWest of US, where long drives are common, and public transportation is limited to center of big cities). Hybrids are selling, but we eagerly await the small diesels which Europe pioneered. Toyota is selling diesels in Africa it seems, but not in US, but they may follow VW lead soon. I would like to see a diesel-electric car of some kind in next few years. But we keep cars for about 5 to 10 years, or until over 100K miles. I have driven some of my cars to over 200K miles. Fords and Toyotas last a long time.

    And my VW already has 85K miles on it, with no big problems. VW computer system works, but cannot be updated by dealer (tried three times, could not get linked even with corporate help). And changing a headlight is a major task, took 3 visits to get it right at one dealer, and many hours of effort. But the engine is great. I did have to replace the clutch plate since the elastomer (rubber?) that softens the noise and vibration seperated. Arizona heat perhaps and 50K miles in two years? My grand-daughter drive my 2000 Toyota Rav 4. Our old Ford Explorer 4WD for camping trips is now driven by one son. No brand loyalties, just respect of quality and functionality. In future years, gasoline prices will change everything. Europeans have always paid high fuel prices, so they perfected the precision small diesels, and luckily have shorter drives usually. Western US is has many beautiful parks and mountains and beaches, but very long drives. We have to develop more city to city trains (very expensive) and rental hybrids perhaps in each city, as EV’s will not have distance we need to get to the parks even from nearest city.

    No car or dealer or customer driving style is perfect.
    But we love cars. When I am in Europe, I use trains but always rent a small car once I get to a country like Italy, which offers so much in the mountain towns. Same for other countries outside of the big cities where the small towns attract us.

    But at 76, I must look forward to more train trips, and perhaps taking one of my 12 grand-children along to drive car. Perhaps the guided-vehicle-highway systems we are testing now in Western US will be ready by the time I am 90?

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Many international Friends and collegues gave their contribution to this article via Linkedin. I summarize some here below:

    1 – Could not agree more. It is people business. Sales CSI and Aftersales CSI make premium brands. Lexus is a living prove. Posted by Ezzat Mugharbil

    2 – Agree with you Maurizio. No use advertising your dealership (or any store) if the customer processes, people and complaint handling methods are below expectations… Posted by Phil Sophocleous

    3 – Without customer service of all kinds, all the advertising in the world will not make it possible to make and keep a customer !!!!!! Posted by Mark Goldberg

    4 – … Also the “word of mouth” is so valuable. Consumers are quick to tell family & friends about their bad experiences and not so quick to mention the great ones. This is why if a dealer is using social media as one of their marketing mediums, they are/should be instituting a reputation management process to monitor those mediums, and quickly address any negative feedback a consumer provides. Posted by Anthony (Tony) Gauntner

    5 – … How many times have you dealt with a large company whose name is advertised everywhere and come across the worst customer service? I had and my question to the managers at such companies is “you spend so much money in attracting new clients, why don’t you put a little effort in retaining your existing clients?”… Posted by George Gofnung

    6 – … Customer Service (thru our staff) and Adv, are equally important, for that reason both need time and money to be corrected setting up in accordance with customer expectation… Let’s Try is difficult but not impossible! Posted by Fidel Olguin

    7 – … Repeat and referral business is the most profitable you will ever have. Superior customer service should be part of every job measurement from the parking lot porter to the GM. But, and this is big but, we constantly lose customers in spite of our best efforts. People move, switch to a competitive brand, die. The list goes on and on… Posted by Dick Hassberger

    8 – You have to keep contact with all your customers with perspective (truck owners, transport companies etc) at least 2 times a year. You have to become a “family” friend; send them small attention gifts-learn their profile/ service problems-even not for your products = you are there after that deal about… Posted by Dov Bar ilan

    9 – No need to say more, the strategy is written from a customer perspective. It’s very important to look at Every PS engagement from a customer expectation point of view, and understand the concerns and issues customers have. Posted by Morad Dekimeche

    10 – Customer Service has a strong self advertising feature which sells a product more than any advertising. To win the loyalty of customers, get reliable and useful customer insight and juicy feedback and many more, your best bet is good customer service… Advertising could being the customers in but bad customer service will drive them out very quick. Posted by Buer Okutu

    Thanks to ALL for your contribution!

  6. Other international contribution to this article coming from Linkedin Groups:

    a) An irratant customer can cause lot of damage to the dealership & can be a bad influence on the new set of customer, always ensure they are heard & attended to. Posted by Sai Kumar

    b) I think that in today’s market it costs more than 7 times more to get a customer than in the past. Poster by Mark Goldberg

    c) … The approach with the most teeth in it is to place one’s self in the customer’s shoes. The customer always needs time savings and convenience but they do not really know how to solve that problem in the dealership. A simple oil change is a major chore to most people and yet it is the one thing if performed rapidly and effeciently, that can bring the customer back again and again. One question, “has anyone had to take a child in and out of a car seat lately?” Or worse, move one of those things from one car to another? That is just one of many conditions that customers with children must deal with when trying to get their car serviced. The customer will always tell us their ‘conditions’, our jobs is to solve these issues. That is the biggest advertisement! Cheers! Posted by Leta Amick

  7. Thanks to ALL for your contribution on AutomotiveSpace.org – and also on these Linkedin Groups!

    Car are sold & repaired from Women and Men serving other Men and Women.

    Yes: superior customer service should be part of every job measurement from the parking lot porter to the CEO! Even in glittering dealerships where someone greets the prospects only 30 minutes after they have entered the showroom or the Service dept…

    As Dick H. says, repeat and referral business is the most profitable! And CS & ADV are like peddling a bicycle: if you stop you’ll fall!

    Dealers & OEM constantly lose customers in spite of their best efforts – because People move. But advertising could – maybe – being the customers IN, but bad sales approach & customer service will – definitely – drive them OUT very, very quick!

    First of all… Human Resources!

  8. John O'Neill says:

    Very interesting article, and it comes down to the simplest things with customers: it takes very little effort to pick up the phone after a delivery and see how the customer is enjoying their purchase. Occasionally we get very lucky: Something the customer was not happy about but not mentioned at the time that would have manifested itself and ultimately led to them not returning was seized upon and able to be corrected easily.

  9. Edward says:

    Ciao Maurizio. Really enjoyed your post and the commens that followed. One problem I find is that certain manufacturers will always sell their products no matter how bad the service is from the dealer network or how many times vehicles are recalled for whatever reason or how many times the price is increased. The brand, if good, will carry them and this creates a very unfortunate situation which allows many employees to feel as if they own the company which in turn makes them exceptionally arrogant.

    The only way to make manufacturers notice you is to not buy their products, however and rather unfortunately, there will always be very willing buyers and the less avaialable a product is, the more desireable it becomes so we find ourselves in a catch twenty two situation which leaves those manufacturers as the ultmate winners as they never lose out.

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