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Marcel Guerry: That cannot be conclusively assessed. As far as we can tell today, electric cars are justifiable in urban centers. The challenge here is represented by the necessity for the appropriate infrastructure with charging stations. This would certainly not be a solution for an external sales employee who constantly covers great distances.
KPMG has recently authored a study concerning the car of the future, surveying all the leading manufacturers, including Mercedes. In the course of the study it became clear that the combustion engine will remain a key factor for the foreseeable future. In the next 15 years, the largest market share is attributed to hybrid-powered motor vehicles, followed by the new electrical technologies based on batteries or fuel cells. Surprisingly, the interviewees appeared to attribute better prospects to the fuel cell than to the battery technology. And it’s Mercedes that appears to be focusing on the fuel cell.
Marcel Guerry: The battery always has two problems: the storage capacity and charging it. The convergence of these two aspects makes this the perfect power source for short drives in urban areas. If we want to maintain the same mobility that we have become accustomed to today, it can only be achieved with fuel cells in terms of the current status of the technology.
Marcel Guerry: With fuel cells a range of 600 or 700 kilometers is feasible and, as is the case today, refueling only takes a few minutes. In addition, there is the fact that hydrogen is generated in large quantities, for example in the chemical industry. The latter could be used as an environmentally friendly fuel for cars. Mercedes now has the appropriate technology, but what is still missing is the necessary infrastructure for the user. All this indicates: We’re in a situation of far-reaching radical change in automobility. The technology opportunities are enormous.
But Mercedes will continue to be a preferred luxury sedan manufacturer?
Marcel Guerry: Mercedes will continue to build luxury sedans in the future. Very simply because not everyone can or wants to drive an electric subcompact.
Studies show that it is precisely city dwellers who tend to favor mobility concepts such as car-share models over ownership of their own car. What’s important here is availability.
Marcel Guerry: Mobility concepts are certainly conceivable for cities as of a certain size. However, this would also require official prerequisites, for such models also rely upon the use of public space.
So the car as a status symbol for its owner will cease to exist?
Marcel Guerry: No, it will exist. In the future, too, the car will indicate where its owner has arrived socially. A person who purchases a new Mercedes isn’t going to hide it from the neighbors. Today a car as such is no longer anything special. But depending on the type, it continues to be a status symbol and distinguishing feature.
The first impression of a brand or a company is one thing, while the second impression is another matter. What significance does after-sales service have at Mercedes?
Marcel Guerry: There is probably no other product where service and support after purchase are as important as a car. If something doesn’t function, customers must know where they can get help. Inasmuch as this has a decisive significance for us, and our extensive dealer network guarantees speed and quality. In this way both the brand and the dealer engender customer loyalty, and it’s important to us that the second impression is on par with the first.
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