USTRLIS NO1 UTOMOTIVE INDUSTR JOURNL EDITION 1031 – · PDF file 2020-07-21 ·...
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AUSTRALIA’S NO.1 AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY JOURNAL EDITION 1031 – JUL 22, 2020
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Fighting fit Mercedes spells out move to fixed-price ‘agency’ sales model in Australia, but warns franchising law reform could crush its plans
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By NEIL DOWLING
MERCEDES-BENZ intends to switch to an agency model of selling cars in Australia in 2022, but the German prestige car-maker’s worldwide head of marketing and sales, Britta Seeger, has warned that any changes to Australia’s franchising laws could potentially crush its controversial retail plans.
Under the model, the factory supplies vehicles on demand to dealerships at a fixed price, and in Australia it will expand on the current online, one-price selling arrangement implemented late last year with the introduction of the Mercedes EQC electric SUV, which at launch was handled by nine dealers acting as agents.
Honda next year plans to be the first car-maker to introduce a similar retail program across all its models in Australia.
But speaking at an international roundtable meeting with journalists – including GoAuto – last week, Ms Seeger said: “If there are
changes to the franchise laws, then we will reassess.”
Under her global remit, Ms Seeger, who is a member of the Daimler AG board of management and Daimler Mobility AG supervisory board, is the German auto giant’s leading spokesperson on digitisation, including online sales and aftersales programs and introducing new dealership models around the world.
She said the agency plan was “the future model for doing business”.
“In Australia, in order to be ready for the future, we needed to change our business model to move the dealer experience online, to make us fit for the future, and to increase our customer relationship,” she said.
“The best way to do this is to change from a franchise to an agency network.
“In Australia we have started with a close relationship with our dealers to find a common denominator to see how we can protect the business and the customer relationship for the future.
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EDITION 1031 - JUL 22, 2020GoAutoNews
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“The transformation required between us and the dealer is still going on in Australia and other markets.”
The agency program started last year with trials in Sweden. It is now in operation in Sweden and South Africa and is starting this year in Austria.
The program requires Mercedes- Benz to renegotiate its dealer contracts to allow it to control the sales process, with dealers handling customer service and deliveries in exchange for a set fee.
However, Ms Seeger said the program would not be introduced into markets where franchise laws made it too difficult.
“We have done this successfully in South Africa and in Sweden. Now we will enter Austria and, step by step, we will shift this business model to other countries,” she said.
“It’s not for every market. We are determined this is the right direction but we have to sort out individual markets where it fits. It will take some time.”
Asked if the US market was involved, Ms Seeger said that country had “a special franchise law”.
“So we cannot work with this and so we are looking at what is the right future for the customers in that market,” she said.
“If the regulator changes legal circumstances, we need to change our approach. So if this is the case in any market, we would need to reassess.
“We have many discussions with Australian dealers and we are finding the common denominator and we plan to switch over (to the agency model) with dealers within 2022.
“I know from many discussions that this is something to go forward in the future and I truly believe we will not see any other chances to provide the seamless customer experience.
“I truly believe this is the future model of doing things in automotive.”
Ms Seeger said the aim of digitisation for Mercedes-Benz was to increase the customer experience and make the buying and servicing process easier and quicker.
She said the company is aiming to sell 25 per cent of all its new passenger cars online by 2025, up from the current rate of less than five per cent.
But she said it was wrong to presume that dealers were being removed from the sales and marketing role in the Mercedes-
Benz network, with interaction between dealer and customer expected in at least 80 per cent of sales and service cases.
“I cannot imagine going forward with this agency model experience without having any contact with the dealers,” she said.
“We want the customer to decide what they need to do and how much they want from their dealer. The customer has to be allowed to choose what they want.”
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By CALLUM HUNTER
MERCEDES-AMG has revealed its most powerful and focused production car to date in the form of the GT Black Series – a track- focused, front-engine/rear-drive ‘super-sportscar’ designed as the pinnacle of AMG performance.
Due in Australia early next year, the GT Black Series’ headline act is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine which, thanks to a new flat crankshaft, bigger intakes and intercoolers, new turbos and a myriad of other changes, produces 537kW of power and a monstrous 800Nm of torque.
What’s more, all 800Nm is available from 2000rpm right the way through to 6000rpm before peak power comes in between 6700-6900rpm.
There have been so many
changes to the Black Series’ V8 compared to the standard GT and GT R’s engine that it carries its own unique engine code.
The result of all this grunt is a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 3.2 seconds and a sub-nine-second dash to 200km/h before maxing out at 325km/h.
To deal with all this extra power, the familiar seven-speed dual- clutch automatic transmission has been beefed up and had its cooling system upgraded while the ratios themselves have been tweaked slightly to better suit the Black Series’ track focus.
Fittingly then, the Black Series comes with ceramic stoppers as standard with unique high-performance brake pads and cooling system.
Visually, there is no way you
could mistake the Black Series for any of the ‘lesser’ GTs – GT R Pro included – with major work carried out across the body and aerodynamic features lifted straight from the AMG GT3 racecar.
The gaping front grille is also lifted from the GT3 and not only feeds the engine but also the wheelarch coolers, negating the secondary vents found on other GT variants.
Below the grille is a two-way
adjustable splitter – with Street and Race positions – designed to increase downforce while also reducing drag.
The other major visual difference away from the aerodynamics is a new carbon-fibre slotted bonnet featuring a thin central scoop and two ‘exhaust air outlets’ designed to “guide the warm air, which is fed from the diagonally positioned cooling pack, out of the engine compartment”.
Viewed from the side, the silhouette is the familiar cab-back GT shape with the enormous GT3 wing being the only real deviation from the norm.
At the rear, the wing is once again the centre of attention, although the carbon rear apron featuring an integrated diffuser and quad-exit exhaust tips is impossible to overlook.
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Mercedes-AMG’s most powerful production V8 headlines 537kW GT Black Series due early 2021
Brooke Jones 0438 533 699 [email protected]