‘Launching a lot of products enables us to communicate with customers on a much more regular basis.’
Roland Folger, the MD and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, earlier today launched the Mercedes-AMG GT S. He spoke on the product and marketing game-plan and the business strategy for the coming year.
Roland Folger, the MD and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, earlier today launched the Mercedes-AMG GT S. He spoke to Shobha Mathur on the product and marketing game-plan and the business strategy for the coming year.
You have recently taken over the India operations of Mercedes-Benz. What are your priorities and will the momentum of the ‘15 for 15’ growth model be carried forward into the next year as well?
It becomes very clear that growth is a combination of several things. It involves customer orientation and dedication where we work together very closely with our dealerships so that the customer experience, especially in the ownership phase, is better than anything you can find anywhere else. That is what makes us very competitive.
Secondly, launching a lot of products enables us to basically communicate with customers on a much more regular basis. Specifically when we launch a new product, we usually find a lot of other customers as well and enjoy with them the Mercedes-Benz family experience. This is again a reconfirmation of the fact that the customer bought the right product which enables him to see what other products we have in our offering. So it is a combination of events and the traffic we can generate with the new products, the better customer experience we offer and then the actual reaching out to the buyer. This year alone we have added 15 additional customer outlets. No one in the luxury sector has so many outlets or such a density of a dealer network as we have and I believe we can continue on those lines and can make customers even more happy.
What will be the company’s product and marketing strategy in 2016? Any targets…
As yet we have fixed no targets for 2016. We are looking into what has worked in CY 2015 and are also looking at what is the potential that we could look into, what kind of vehicles would be available to us in 2016, what would we want to bring to India and what especially fits into the Indian market. And then we will follow along those lines. But it was working extremely well for us in 2015.
Out of the 15 new models launched in CY 2015, which would you say is your most successful model that you could replicate in the coming year?
That is difficult to say but my personal preference would be a GLE because I strongly believe in the product and I also believe it fits the needs of the Indian market as well. Strong sales are also coming from the SUV segment; we grew 70 percent over 2014 in that segment alone so that is definitely something positive and encouraging.
How do you see the luxury car market faring in India and how would Mercedes-Benz be closing the year?
I don’t think there is really any need for recovery in the market. I think there were a lot of difficulties so it was not as easy as distributing vehicles. There is a certain challenge in the luxury market but also more of a general note across the overall automotive market that was not performing according to expectations. We have been performing extremely well so I believe we will strongly push the overall luxury market forward as far as volumes are concerned. So yes, there will be growth but maybe not as much as it might have been.
About 45 percent sales for the company are currently accruing from Delhi and Mumbai alone. How do you plan to grow in the other regions and how important are the Tier II and III cities for Mercedes-Benz going forward?
We see a lot of potential in other markets. That is why we are growing in other areas as well. For instance, South is performing much higher than expected. We see that as an opportunity to extend our reach because ultimately it is a business case logic. You need to have a certain minimum volume in a certain marketplace, so you can basically start to explore it. This will be the challenge for 2016 and going forward we are looking at what are the additional opportunities in other areas irrespective of whether they are second tier or third tier markets.
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