‘Our not giving out names is part of the protection level that we follow with the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Guard.’
The Mercedes-Maybach S600 Guard is the first car certified with the highest ballistic protection level for civilian vehicles. Roland Folger, MD & CEO, Mercedes-Benz India, speaks to Shobha Mathur on the world's safest car.
Mercedes-Benz India today launched the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Guard in India at Rs 10.50 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi). The first car to be certified with the highest ballistic protection level (VR10) for civilian vehicles, the S600 Guard is the world’s safest automobile. Roland Folger, MD and CEO, Mercedes-Benz India, spoke to Shobha Mathur at the launch in New Delhi.
What is the kind of response you are expecting to the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Guard in India?
The response normally is that the government authorities will get in touch with us or specific customers like businessmen, who find themselves at the threat level of that nature, get in touch with us. That is why we have launched a car like this for the general public because the first protection level is awareness. Once customers find out that such a vehicle at such a level is available, they will contact us directly. Our not giving out names is part of the protection level that we follow with the vehicle. The Maybach looks like any other Mercedes car out there and the second level of protection is that you cannot see from the outside that it is a highly protected vehicle.
We don’t comment on who is using what kind of vehicles. We leave it to the customers to decide what kind of vehicles they want to buy.
It’s understood that the Maybach S600 Guard exhibited here was brought for the launch event and will be returning to Germany?
Vehicles like these are not bought from source ever. What customers normally do is they have their own specific requirements. For instance, each and every country has its own radio systems built into the vehicle. Since they want the Maybach to protect the people inside it, they have special radio contacts built into the vehicle. They might have other ideas on what to also put into the vehicle; so all these vehicles at this price point are hand-made for a very distinctive clientele.
Most of the people will also go to Germany, talk to our technical experts. It is a long process for preparing the vehicle as governments do not want to make any kind of mistake. If you invite a dignitary from another country, you want to make the maximum effort to ensure that nothing untoward happens to your guest especially at such a high level. So that is why they get in touch with us and we link them with our colleagues in Germany. They bring across their specifications to Germany and learn all about the testing that we do in much more detail and then they decide.
Approximately how long does it take to make the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Guard?
About six months from the very first stage. So from the time that the customer places his order is when we see what the capacity is. Naturally for such a new vehicle that comes out, the capacity and waiting list will be a little bit longer but usually it takes about six months to complete the car.
How many of this model do plan to sell this year?
We never look at specific sales numbers because that would mean we tell you how many customers, what type of customers they are and that is a no. There is a high level of confidentiality attached to it and forms part of the protection of the vehicle as well. We are not bringing these vehicles for any financial reason or because they are a great contributor. This is something that is increasingly important for very distinctive customers and they also expect that level of protection from us. And they can get that from the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Guard.
Do you expect CY 2016 to be better for Mercedes-Benz India in terms of growth and sales compared to 2015?
We are looking at a two-digit growth in 2016. For everything else, we have to see what is happening with the diesel ban, the impact of the taxation issues but we are optimistic.
How much has Mercedes-Benz been impacted by the diesel ban on engines above 2 litres and the infrastructure cess on vehicles?
There is very little that you can do about it because our lead times are 6-7 months. What we have done on very short notice is that we have taken other gasoline versions and petrol versions from our vehicles around the country and sent them to the NCR. This is the short-term solution that we have found but we are hoping that the diesel ban will be lifted towards March 31 and we will continue to sell our vehicles. We believe that in the mid-term diesels will have their part to play in the economy.
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