BMW, Mercedes standardise cars to help buyers and boost margins – Reuters UK

Posted: Friday, October 03, 2014

PARIS (Reuters) – Premium carmakers Mercedes-Benz and BMW are aiming to sell more standardised cars and services to boost profit margins and simplify the complex list of options for buyers — while also given them the choice of a bespoke car if they want.

The move is partly aimed at attracting customers who might struggle with the ever growing list of model variants, multimedia features and safety technology available in new cars, the companies said at the Paris auto show on Thursday.

Ian Robertson, BMW (BMWG.DE) board member responsible for sales and marketing, said the new 4-series coupe was being offered with four different trims, and the i8 hybrid sports car was being offered in only three packages of options.

“We have packaged a number of trim levels to help the customer and ourselves, because the complexity was very high. A clearly understandable package was the M sport package,” Robertson said, referring to cars equipped with the performance luxury trim which comes with more ornate bumpers and spoilers and top of the line engines.

Standardising equipment also helped the market to gauge the second-hand value of a car.

“It helps customers with understanding what is available, that also helps with the residual values of the car and therefore the leasing rates,” Robertson explained.

Standardisation is also a response to the polarisation of customer tastes in various countries.

BMW has, for example, stopped proactively offering manual transmission versions of its sports cars in markets such as the United States, and tends to push four-wheel drive versions in markets such as Austria, Robertson said.

Customers nonetheless have the option to order a bespoke, tailored vehicle if they want to, Robertson said, adding that was still a key part of the premium buying experience.


Mercedes-Benz (DAIGn.DE) is also looking at ways to strike a balance between standardisation and custom building.

“There are two approaches, you build to order, or you build to stock,” Ola Kaellenius, head of sales for Mercedes-Benz said in an interview on Thursday.

“In Germany the classic approach is to build to order, but in the United States the dealer orders the cars and waits for the customer to drive it out of the showroom. We offer both.”

The growing number of model variants and the expanding range of trim, safety and multimedia options have, however, led Mercedes to simplify some of its offerings into brand packages.

Mercedes digital connectivity and some customer interactions with servicing and dealership personnel are now being bundled under the “MercedesMe” brand.

Because some clients like going through the detailed specification lists before ordering their new cars, Mercedes is making it easier for them to make decisions with the help of dedicated staff.

“We now have a product concierge, comparable to a product genius in an Apple computer store. Their only job is to help customers understand the car before buying it, to take care of them during delivery, and to be available for customers after the sale,” Kaellenius said, adding this would be one person.

“Mercedes has a breathtaking pace of offering new innovations. We want to ensure that customers can understand it all,” he explained. “Despite all the digital tools for specifying cars, you still need the human touch.”

(Editing by Mark Potter)


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