BY ANJA FAHS
Each year in August, the world’s vintage car fan community transforms Pebble Beach in California into a superlative beauty pageant – a summit for the most exquisite classic automobiles. This year, it proved to be the perfect venue for premièring the exclusive Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6, a luxury-class coupé of the most exciting kind. The Vision is an homage to the glory days of the aero coupés.
After production of the Maybach ceased over two years ago, the Maybach name has been run as a Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand for all ultra-luxury segment Mercedes limousines. Now, the Maybach name also features on the radiator grille of this new show car that is – however – a coupé. This was reason enough for us to talk to Dr Jens Thiemer, Vice President Marketing Communications Mercedes-Benz Cars, about the future and the positioning of the Mercedes-Maybach brand within Daimler AG.
Dr Thiemer, Maybach has not been an independent vehicle division of Daimler since 2014 but is an auxiliary brand of Mercedes-Benz. How precisely is Daimler positioning its Maybach brand today?
Mercedes-Maybach has been a clearly positioned sub-brand of Mercedes-Benz with its very own profile since 2014. Similar to Mercedes-AMG when it comes to sportiness and performance, Mercedes-Maybach expands our brand world to include a completely autonomous offering in the ultra-luxury segment. Both sub-brands have very close ties to the parent company. With the Mercedes-Maybach, we are fulfiling the wishes of those customers who have the highest level of discernment when it comes to exclusivity, individuality and luxury. With this, we are therefore still positioned within the ultra-luxury segment where the focus is on status orientation and representation.
What distinguishes the Maybach version from a ‘normal’ Mercedes-Benz S-Class? What can customers purchasing a Mercedes-Maybach expect?
A Mercedes-Maybach is a Mercedes in a highly exclusive and individual version. These vehicles have particularly exclusive features that go beyond the offerings of Mercedes-Benz. These can, for example, be more space and freedom of movement, special seat systems and interiors that are elaborately representative and diversely customisable. When it comes to the interiors, we will cater to the specific wishes, requirements and lifestyles of our customers.
In nutshell: Mercedes-Maybach embodies ‘the very best’ in its most exclusive form and hence fulfils the requirements of the world’s most discerning customers. In the case of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class Pullman, we have gone one step further: the vehicle is available as a six-seater with two rows of seats facing each other, hence embodying the ultimate in luxury and status within the segment – and not just as a state limousine. With this, the Mercedes-Maybach S 600 Pullman is absolutely unique among the established automobile manufacturers.
Please describe the Maybach customer structure.
Mercedes-Maybach customers want something different, a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. They are extremely independent, very status-oriented and are strong characters. Driving a car like this is not a matter of age, either. If we look at the age groups worldwide, we have to summarise that customers in Asia are on average considerably younger than those in Europe, for example. For business customers, the Mercedes-Maybach is particularly in demand as a representative, chauffeur-service vehicle.
What are the biggest sales markets for the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and why?
Last year, the biggest markets were China, South Korea, Russia and the US. These four countries make up a major share of global Mercedes-Maybach sales. Since its launch, around 500 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class vehicles a month are delivered to customers in China where limousines are frequently used as chauffeur-driven cars, which is why the rear row of seats is so important. Family members and business contacts are regularly chauffeur-driven in China.
What is your customer acquisition strategy for these exclusive vehicles?
You cannot acquire these kinds of customers in the classical sense. They have generally already been convinced by the brand and have faith in its appeal. Many have a personal relationship with the brand, because they know that their own specific requirements will be fulfiled by us. The Mercedes-Maybach customer acquisition strategy is therefore not comparable with the customer communication for other Mercedes models.
How is the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class currently being positioned in its marketing? Is it being targeted more at drivers or more at owners with chauffeurs? Are there differing approaches here?
What is so special about the product substance of a Mercedes-Maybach is that – regardless of whether you are a driver or an owner – anybody can be assured of experiencing the ultimate in luxury on four wheels. Nevertheless, in the past, the primary topics of communication in China frequently focused on comfort in the rear, tranquillity and stability. In contrast, in other countries, we place greater emphasis on the holistic luxury experience – at the steering wheel or in the rear. Because there are also people who are chauffeur-driven during the week but prefer to drive themselves at the weekend. The Mercedes-Maybach is the non plus ultra for both forms of driving.
If we think about the typical customer journey – from pre-sales to after-sales, etc. – are there any differences for customers in terms of communication and liaison, etc. between whether they opt to purchase a Mercedes-Maybach S model or the ‘normal’ Mercedes-Benz S-Class?
Each and every customer is important to us. Our attitude is ‘the best or nothing’ for all our brands. However, there are, of course, nonetheless differences when it comes to the brand experience. At Mercedes-Maybach, the highest level of attention and customer-specific liaison are attributed to the customer journey. Here, we try to fulfil every conceivable wish.
Are you using the Maybach brand in your marketing strategy to make existing Mercedes-Benz clients switch to a higher-class luxury vehicle or is it oriented more on acquiring customers from competitors?
Both. Acquiring new customers is always a focus, of course. Furthermore, Mercedes-Maybach also, however, offers a highly-attractive range of vehicles to existing Mercedes-Benz customers who would like to treat themselves to a car in a superior class.
Please name three competing vehicles whose market share you would like to tap into with the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class models.
We see the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class as a competitor of the Bentley Flying Spur and the Rolls Royce Ghost.
September saw the unveiling of the ‘Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Concept’, not a luxury limousine but more of a sports car concept. Could Maybach in future also be expanded to incorporate other ranges of models?
In addition to the S-Class limousine, Pullman and convertible derivatives, we have identified various possibilities for expanding the Mercedes-Maybach product family. The ‘Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6’ is, however, not a concept vehicle for a concrete product but a statement on the strength of the Mercedes-Maybach brand. It is a show car that our designers have created as an homage to the glory days of the aero coupé. This is the first luxury coupé in the ranks of our visionary design show cars. To date, the series includes the Vision Ener-G-Force from 2012, the AMG Vision Gran Turismo from 2013 and the Vision Tokyo from 2015.
What relevance do concept vehicles have at all for you and your marketing strategy?
Concept vehicles look far into the future and provide us with a glimpse of how design and also technology might develop. They are important brand shapers. These allow us to beautifully visualise future technologies. Take our F 015 Luxury in Motion, for example. It gives us an impression of how cars can change with ongoing digitalisation and self-driving. Here, one core idea was the continual exchange of information between the vehicle, its passengers and the outside world. The F 015 Luxury in Motion is a digital space and retreat for relaxing or working, demonstrating that concept vehicles are important because they can set trends for a brand. Furthermore, customer feedback from the studies is tremendously important for future Mercedes-Benz developments.
In general, how do you see the development of electric vehicles in the future? Daimler recently made a clear statement with its ‘EQ’ brand. What are the considerations for Maybach?
Emissions-free automobiles are the future. The first serial vehicle under the new EQ product brand is expected to be launched by the end of this decade. By 2025, Daimler will have more than ten fully-electric passenger vehicles on the market. The principles of our Mercedes-Benz core brand fundamentally also apply to our passenger vehicle sub-brands: electric vehicles in other product families will be unveiled in various forms and intervals in the future.
Dr Jens Thiemer
Dr Jens Thiemer is Vice President Marketing Communications Mercedes-Benz Cars at Daimler AG. He started his career at Daimler AG in 1998. Thiemer studied business administration, majoring in marketing, consumer psychology and brand management at the universities of Trier in Germany and Stirling in Scotland. He dedicates his leisure time to long-distance car races and vintage car rallies.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin, issue Q4 2016. Picture credit © Daimler AG