Mr. Claudius Steinhoff – CEO of Daimler South East Asia
The three-pointed star isn't stopping here either, because we're told the EQE and the EQV (the electric V-Class van!) can also be expected this year, which lets the brand cover practically all the bases as far as model segments go.
However, what's even more interesting is the brand's debut of a quasi-digital online car purchase model with the launch of the EQB, or what Mr. Claudius Steinhoff – CEO of Daimler South East Asia – refers to as, 'Click & Bricks', because the brand believes the EQB's customer profile is well-suited for such a digital platform.
“The EQB is the start, but we will do this for all the models going forward. You can see all the available cars, book it, pay a refundable deposit and you've effectively reserved your vehicle... all from the comfort of your home or office,” Claudius explains.
Naturally, we have to ask if Mercedes-Benz will gradually move to a digital-only model and also, if there will be any changes to the importer-dealer relationship between Daimler and its Singapore distributor, Cycle & Carriage.
Claudius tells us more, “Buying a vehicle is a very emotional process, so while our customers enjoy having all the options visible online to make the reservation, they still want to go down to the showroom, see and test-drive the car, talk about the details, such as financing, insurance and everything that comes along with a car purchase.”
“We need partners like Cycle and Carriage in the future to have this best possible customer experience both online and offline, irrespective of where the purchase journey starts. Therefore, with the online store, it's a working combination of us (the brand Principal) and our dealer, Cycle & Carriage, to facilitate the order,” he continues.
He elaborates, “We believe that it's a combination of the online and offline worlds. It's all about giving more convenient choices to the customers instead of taking them away.”
“For instance, if a customer prefers to complete the booking in the store after reserving the car online, they can visit the Concept Store at the Great World mall, or they can go to the dealership. So the customer decides on his/her preferred journey for the purchase. And we will make sure that this is possible and our team is prepared to support the customer,” Claudius explains.
He continues, “And we will constantly come up with innovative ideas that fit to the promise we give our customers here in Singapore and we always then try to push boundaries. This is realistic for Singapore because we have very tech-savvy customers, specifically customers that are always striving for the next innovation in the digital sphere.”
“On the other hand, the showroom experience will remain paramount for the experience in Singapore because it's a small country with relatively short distances between home to the showroom. For me, it is not so important how big the share of digital sales will be eventually, but how happy our customers are with these different choices,” he explains.
Claudius says, “It's a permanent fixture, yet it's not a static thing where we introduce it now and it will stay like this forever. We are constantly striving for improvements... just like the Mercedes-Benz cars themselves!”
A spokesperson from Daimler South East Asia added, “Our intention with the online store is to provide an enhanced purchasing experience for our customers and to meet them where it is comfortable and convenient for them, with the option of not having to be physically present throughout the entire transaction process. This will give them a seamless experience, both online and offline.”
She continued, “The entire transaction cannot be concluded online as there are documents, payments and processes – such as the initial deposit for the car or the trading-in of a car (if any) – that require the customer to be physically present. However, it is possible for customers to not test drive or interact with the sales person during the first few stages of the transaction process and should copies of their documents be required, it can be submitted via email to our authorised dealer, Cycle & Carriage.”
Technically, we understand a lot of these 'virtual', contactless processes were already developed and refined during the Circuit Breaker and lockdown period, so we reckon the entire sales process can be completed remotely.
However, I guess when you're talking about a brand like Mercedes-Benz, the buying experience is as large a part of the erm, 'experience' as the car itself.
After all, this is still an automobile and not an appliance and in such cases, buyers may continue to appreciate the human-touch of a face-to-face interaction. What do you think?