Monday, October 21, 2013

An Interview with Daimler AG's President and CEO


Two weeks ago, Daimler AG President of Central/Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia, Mr. Peter Alexander Trettin was in the country for a whirlwind visit to affirm Daimler AG’s strong support to Philippine distributor, CATS Motors, Inc.

CATS Motors, Inc. has been a strong and dependable partner for Mercedes-Benz for over 20 years and marked its 20th year of partnership with the German brand with the opening of its new and bigger showroom in EDSA Greenhills.

Mr. Trettin along with Mr. Wolfgang Huppenbauer, President and CEO of Daimler Southeast Asia; Mr. Felix R. Ang, President of CATS Motors, Inc.; and Mr. Robert Shaw, VP for Sales & Marketing—Passenger Cars sat down with a small group of motoring and business press to outline Mercedes-Benz’s plans in the Philippines including the upcoming launch of the all-new S-Class.

CARGUIDE.PH: What brings you to the Philippines?

Mr. Peter Alexander Trettin: I have a lot of responsibility for the general distribution markets and I have been responsible for Eastern and Central Europe, for Africa, for the Middle East, and for Southeast Asia for the past four years. I want to learn a lot about the 120 markets I’m responsible for, even if it will just be a rough idea.

The Philippines is clearly an important part of our Southeast Asia portfolio and is a driving force for our success. Therefore, I need to know a country not just by theory or numbers, but to get a good glimpse of the market myself. This is my first time in the country, and hopefully it will not be the last time.

CARGUIDE.PH: Since it’s your first time in the Philippines, what’s your first impression about our country?

TRETTIN: The roads are very crowded. But honestly, you are not number one—in my personal opinion, Jarkarta is even worse. Nonetheless, I have very positive impressions. First of all, looking at the economic environment, I think it’s very promising. It seems so driven by the government—they really try to clarify things and give directions to develop the country. Looking at the growth rates, the inflation, and the interest rates, it’s very promising.

CARGUIDE.PH: With the positive economic indicators in the Philippines, what are you expectations for our market?

TRETTIN: It’s clear at the moment that we are extremely successful in the car business. We are Number 3 in the global premium segment after BMW and Audi, but we are Number 2 here in the Philippines. We had our best month in September, with 143,000 units sold. This means we are the fastest growing brand at the moment percentage-wise. We are gaining momentum and this is where we want to be. It’s not a secret, but we want to be the number one in the premium segment by 2020.

In the Philippines though, Mercedes-Benz isn’t just premium, it’s luxury so we are talking about different numbers. We have a clear focus that we want to be back on the level we had years before, and we are gaining to reach 650 units annually. This is quite promising at the moment.

We have additional product ranges now, and we can target new customers with lower-end but not cheap products. After the new A-Class, with have the CLA, which will also be launched in the Philippines real soon. It’s a sexy car and we know this. Next year, we also have the GLA—sort of an off-road version of the CLA. What we have seen is that the average age of Mercedes-Benz buyers is getting younger. We have to add customers without losing the existing ones.

CARGUIDE.PH: You were saying that you’re expanding your product lines to include cars like the CLA and GLA. Going for something more affordable, won’t this affect the luxury image of Mercedes-Benz?

TRETTIN: I don’t think so. What we are reaching is another entry point. Mercedes-Benz is not cheap, but we are offering something different. You cannot simply definite a customer—that this is an A-Class customer or a B-Class customer—because there is a lifecycle.

It can be, you start as A-Class then move up going to C-Class, and then E-Class. When you retire, perhaps you go back to an A-Class. This means we have to find another entry. For young business people, our new products are clearly more affordable but it’s still high value, high quality, and very Mercedes-Benz.

CARGUIDE.PH: With the high growth in Asia, does Mercedes-Benz see the need to develop a car specifically for the Asian market?

TRETTIN: I don’t think so, but I think it’s the other way round. We are developing cars focusing on the Asian market but also fulfilling the requirements of Western Europe. It’s not an either/or situation but the options are very much defined such as the extended versions of our limousines. In the development process, an essential part focuses on Asia to meet the customer’s wishes and needs.

CARGUIDE.PH: Could you talk about the Mercedes-Benz S-Class? When will this be launched in the Philippines?

TRETTIN: Very closely—on November 27 this year. I think it’s an amazing car. We have launched it in Western Europe and the US already. It’s quoted as the best car in the world and this is undisputable. It attracts a very small buyer group, yes, but this is really modern luxury.

As you know, with the new S-Class, we have so many innovations and these innovations later go into our other models. This target group is the innovators and we have a lot of new ideas. It’s elegant, comfortable, and safe. We are quite happy.

CARGUIDE.PH: Without preempting anything on the launch date, can you give us some insights on what features we can expect with the new S-Class?

TRETTIN: There’s always the rational and the emotional aspects to a car. Starting with the emotional, which is unusual for me, it’s an excellent design. It will be a design icon. It takes a step forward in interior and comfort—they are marvelous. For the rational, we are also sticking to our values of safety with Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive. It starts with PRE-SAFE and we can develop this further and further until you can actually drive without a chauffeur.

CARGUIDE.PH: Are you happy with the performance of CATS Motors?

TRETTIN:  One of the reasons I’m here is to look at the investments. The EDSA Greenhills showroom is about a year old and is excellent and state-of-the-art. With our broadening range, we can also display more cars there. People are now well informed thanks to the internet, but the physical sales channel is still very important given the car is expensive.

It’s good to be upfront and have the information, but a good sales person checks the needs of the customers. This is what I expect from our salesmen—that he challenges you to know what you need and to find out what the right car is for you and help you find the right choice. Upfront information through the internet is common, but the final decision is made together with an expert.

Buying a car has two moments: ordering and receiving. You want to have a celebration on both these occasions.

Of course, I understand that CATS Motors, Inc. is looking at more volume sales and is likely to expand in Cebu in the Visayas by next year.

CARGUIDE.PH: You’ve seen our roads and met our people. If you were based in the Philippines, what Mercedes-Benz model will you get?

TRETTIN: I would love to have the S-Class. In the 2 days, I drove only the S-Class and it’s an exceptional car. If you’re stuck in traffic, you want to have comfort. It’s like a living room!

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